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article imageOp-Ed: Teen Pregnancy — its decline and what that means for U.S.

By Erin P. Capuano     Apr 30, 2012 in Health
Teen pregnancy rates in the United States are declining and statistics show it's because of comprehensive sex education in schools.
Fewer teens are having sex today than in 1991, and a report released this year by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that the teenage birth rate for American teenagers fell nine per cent from 2009 to 2010. The average national level is 34.3 teenage births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19. This is the lowest rate in 65 years, since 1946. Mississippi again made the list as the highest rate with 55 births per 1,000 girls, New Hampshire has the lowest at 16 births per 1,000 girls. This can most definitely be attributed to the lack of access to healthcare and birth control in some of the remote areas of Mississippi and the powerful religious beliefs of families. In the more liberal states where it is acceptable to teach sex education in schools and the, sex is evil belief is not pounded into a teenagers head we do find that the birth rates can be lower. Of course in the more urban populated areas where the household incomes are lower and the poverty rate is higher you will find that the rate of teenage births are much higher than in a more affluent area.
It should come as no surprise that in 2011 the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) reported that the U.S. ranks first among developed countries when it comes to income inequality and fourth across the entire world. With the income disparities in this country we have seen the top 1% earning 93% of the countries income thus prompting groups such as Occupy Wall Street to pop up.
Unfortunately the United States ranks first among developed nations in rates of both teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It's one fact that has not fallen on deaf ears; Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall and David W. Hall of The University of Georgia claim that the government funded abstinence-only sex education has a direct link to the increase of teenage pregnancy and birth rates. Ms. Stanger-Hall and Mr. Hall found that the more states pushed abstinence only in the laws and policies the higher the average teenage pregnancy and birth rates. They also factored in the teenagers socioeconomic statuses, they access to sex education, ethnicity and availability to Medicaid waivers for family planning services. With the current attack on women and the push to defund health organizations such as Planned Parenthood its become abundantly clear that women are being told their reproductive rights do not matter and if they do become pregnant they are responsible and have no choice in the matter. Facts cannot and do not lie and this year alone the country led by the Republicans have put forth over 900 pieces of legislation that either limit or take away reproductive rights of women, over 120 have passed or become law. “To date, legislators have introduced 916 measures related to reproductive health and rights in the 49 legislatures that have convened their regular sessions.”
Teens that are having sex are using condoms making the teen pregnancy rate drop to a record low. This statistic is more than good news in a society with a struggling economy and stagnant job growth. More teens are finishing high-school finally realizing the importance of a diploma and education. Not only is this good news it's great news in the fight against AIDS; more teens using condoms means less acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.
Most if not all of these statistic changes can be attributed to an aggressive sex education program occurring in schools in many parts of the country. The sex education curriculum shows teenagers how to be responsible if and when they choose to have sexual intercourse and also shows them the consequences of failing to do so. By allowing kids to see actions and consequences to actions it allows them to use judgement rather than entering an unknown. Abstinence education has long been pushed by Evangelical Christians and Republicans as an answer to teen pregnancy and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases but hasn't been proven to work. Researchers found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 per cent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant, while a federal report showed that abstinence-only programs had no impact on the rate of sexual abstinence. reports Amanda Peterson Beadle for ThinkProgress. With the development of Sex Education classes, updated materials and printed pamphlets for parents as well as teens families are learning new ways to talk to each other about sex.
Teen pregnancy puts children at risk. Both the mother and baby can suffer if a child is unprepared for taking on the role of mother. There is a great need for proper parenting skills, pregnancy health education and access for girls to further their education during and after pregnancy so they do not fall behind. The cycle of teen pregnancy carries over for generations unless we educate children on the importance of protection and respecting yourself enough to want better for your life.
Organizations such as the Joey Di Paolo AIDS Foundation and Reach Out Inc. founded in 1989 by Lori Michaels, Reach Out, Inc. have been educating children and teens for years about sex education and disease prevention. Reach Out accomplishes this by interactive music shows that tour different schools in different counties of New Jersey as well as traveling around the United States to participate in events for and about children and teens. Access to free clinics such as Planned Parenthood and free healthcare for low income families like Medicaid can ensure that the teenager has ample medical care for her and her child but can also help in preventing pregnancy. Planned Parenthood gives girls a safe place to go where they can talk, be educated about sex and obtain birth control if they do intend on having sex they can also have access to exams by Gynecologists to make sure they are not passing on any diseases to their partners. Education is prevention before anything else, the more we teach our teenagers about sex the less abortions we will have and the less children in the foster care system.
Parents have gotten in on the act finally facing the subject head on with their kids, because for decades sex has been a taboo subject in most households with parents afraid to confront their kids. However with the current climate of sex and violence on our televisions daily we are finding that more and more children are growing up faster and faster and parents need to keep up. Much of the new statistics are being linked to parents reading to their children more. Toys and electronics are all the rage but a good book can combat much of what society has to offer our children. The morals and values taught in a good book can have a lasting effect on a child at an age where retention of information is at its highest. More young children are getting reading time. 60 percent of children ages 3-5 (not in kindergarten) were read to daily by a family member in 2005 ;that is up from 53 percent in 1993.
Cable stations such as MTV have taken an active role in the prevention and education of the AIDS epidemic starting in the 80's and 90's when the spread of the disease was at its highest. Taking on that responsibility has proven helpful to reach teens whose lives are lived by what they see on MTv.
Through music and the arts we can reach a broader range of people and educate a whole new generation on how to convey safe sex to their children. It will always start at home but at least now there are more options for parents and teachers that can assist them in making the right choices for their children. We can create a new cycle of responsibility and education so that in the years to come more teens will graduate high-school which will allow them to get better jobs and be settled in careers. I do believe that healthy and happy children can be raised in a single parent home as long as the parent isn't a child themselves. It will benefit both mother and child.
The health care system will also benefit from a decline in teen pregnancy. There will be less single mothers without health insurance having children, and more waiting for the right time to get pregnant. Today the average cost to have a child in the hospital can be at least $13,000 and that's not even accounting for hospital visits after birth, doctors' appointments and regular tests that need to be given to a newborn. Universal Healthcare is a hot button issue President Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the first to propose universal healthcare for every American citizen but received a huge wall of dissent from the House and Senate who were taking money from healthcare lobbyists. With the reprise of the healthcare debate and President Barack Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act we have insured 35 million more people and ensured that all children have health insurance. President Obama has also made birth control free to every woman in the country giving low income women easier access to birth control, this could be contributing to the decline in teen pregnancy.
Most teens are getting involved in their government, participating in elections and fighting for change in and around their communities, this renewed interest can play a roll in the choices they make as young adults. In 2008 the youth vote turned out in record numbers to vote for President Obama, showing a passion for politics that hadn't been there before. Are we seeing a change in how the youth view the country? The youth vote was easily handled by Obama and with the addition of his healthcare plan allowing students to stay on their parents healthcare plans longer than historically. This addition helps them pay off some student loans before the responsibility of paying for healthcare, they are seeing a politician who has finally found a way to reach out to their needs.
My hope is that these numbers continue to decrease and we see a higher amount of teens taking more responsibility for their bodies and their lives. The saddest part out of all of this talk is that girls do not have enough self respect for themselves to understand they deserve a better life, or that the better life they can have is attainable. With the American Dream slowly coming to an end we need to make new dreams for ourselves, but understand that we can still have all that we need in life with just a flip of the script.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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