Teen pregnancies by Area Development District - 2008
There is a financial cost to teen pregnancy to the taxpayer. Teen moms who need government assistance because they cannot work, children who have special needs because their mom didn't get prenatal care early on, court systems and paternity enforcement agencies going after dads, schools that won't get the average daily attendance money for moms that drop out, the costs go on.
There is also an emotional cost to all concerned. Parents of young teens wind up raising their children's children. Young women's bodies may be ready for motherhood, but their emotions are not. Young men become fathers before they are ready. Babies raised by teen mothers grow up to be teen parents.
There seems to be little interest in addressing the issue in the states with the highest rates of teen pregnancy. That's bodes ill for the next survey period. Considering the economy, the rates of teen pregnancy, unless addressed, will rise with all the other bad news indicators.
Addressing the issue of unplanned teen pregnancy is a job for more than the health department. It's a job for parents. Saying "don't get pregnant" without information on how not to get pregnant is not productive. Keeping teens involved in school, in church, in community activities, fostering a drive to continue education and bolstering self esteem are steps in the right direction.
Just say no didn't work in the war on drugs and it isn't working in pregnancy prevention. Abstinence education may be all the state and federal government can offer. The rest of us can do more.
Editor's Note: this article was published January 17, 2009.