may have missed this good news in the middle of the white noise
coming from the White House. Their antics seem to eclipse the real
news as well as any victories that we should be celebrating and
building on. The recent reports of the historic low in U.S. teen
pregnancy rates is one such example.
pregnancy rates are still higher than our counterparts in the
industrialize world, and has been for a while. As much as North Korea
is demonized (with sound reasons), it has one of the lowest teen
pregnancy rates in the world.
pregnancies have devastating consequences on teens in general but for
teens locked in a world of poverty, an unplanned pregnancy is almost
a guarantee for a diminished quality of life. The pregnancies are
costly in terms of health and lost opportunities for better life
chances. It is estimated that it costs taxpayers almost $10 billion
to deal with the by-products of unplanned pregnancies of teens. This
includes increased health care and foster care. It means paying out
for increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents. It
covers lost tax revenue due to drop-outs and unmet education
achievement that funnels youth into low-wage jobs. It means a costly
commitment to the intergenerational poverty with the likelihood that
the children of teenage mothers are more likely to have troubles with
learning, have more health problems, be victims of the justice
system, and be teen mothers themselves.
good news is that teen pregnancies in this country have been
decreasing over the last couple of decades. For Black and Brown
teens, the prospects are most encouraging. Last year, the rates for
these groups showed a historic low in teen births. Recently, the
Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute
reported continued decreases in the rates.
nation must do a lot more on educating young people on sex,
especially given their over-exposure to sex through TV, movies, games
and porno. Then people can see how out of touch and un-informed our
legislators and policy-makers are on this topic. Remember the good
ole boy from Missouri who made the distinction between legitimate and
illegitimate rape. Former State Rep. Todd Aiken’s version of
how a woman’s body can shut down during rape to prevent a
pregnancy costs him his senate election. More important, the backward
statement put a spotlight on the Neanderthal thinking that leads to
policies and laws that are harmful to girls and women.
where I think the rubber is meeting the road away from teen births.
For the last decade or so, many organizations have made this issue a
focus by putting attention and resources on girls. There has been a
plethora of girl-centered programs, projects and campaigns to
emphasize and illuminate the worth of girls. From Girls Incorporated
to “Black Girls Rock”, females of all ages are
understanding the keys to unlocking their power. I’m proud to
say my own youth organization hasn’t seen a pregnancy since the
1980’s. That was planned!
are being funneled into more math and science programs and projects.
They are being mentored by empowered women from career fields to
entrepreneurs to community organizers. I believe these unseen and
unmeasurable roles and activities often get minimized when it comes
to ensuring that girls—especially girls in poverty—see
their full potential and are enthusiastically supported in reaching
those heights. We need to do more of this kind of engagement and
teen birth rates is great news but we can’t sit on our laurels.
Let’s continue to show young boys and girls the benefits of
delaying sex and having babies by making sure there are plenty of
opportunities for supervised fun, academic enrichment and personal
development. But we can’t have our heads in the sand when we
know young people are sexually active. We must make sure they have
all the information and supplies needed to make informed decisions.
It’s in our power to stop the cycle of babies having babies.