Monday, September 05, 2005

Teenage Pregnancy

"High school senior Monica Selby thought she would be busy this year planning for college, not preparing for the birth of her first child.

"I've been crying every day and every night. I keep on blaming myself for this," said the 18-year-old Selby, who is six months pregnant.

She cries about starting classes this week at Timken Senior High School with a bulging belly, about the emotions of planning an adoption, about becoming part of a statistic that has snagged the nation's attention: 64 of Timken's 490 female students - 13 percent - are pregnant.

Joanne Hinton, whose 16-year-old daughter, Raechel Hinton, is eight months pregnant, said she believes the school's abstinence-based sex education program isn't enough. "It's time to take the blinders off and realize that these kids are having sex," she said. "Obviously, abstinence is not working. If we have to, just give them condoms."

Let me just say that I do not condone teenage pregnancies- no matter if they give the baby up for adoption, keep the child, or abort the fetus. But that's not the issue here. The issue is how to deal with it, and prevent it. Joanne Hinton's answer- to improve the school's sex education program and distribute condoms at school- is laughable to me. Her 16 year old daughter is pregnant, yet she's blaming it all on the SCHOOL?!?! Last time I checked, schools were responsible for presenting the information and teaching the kids... but it's up the kids to actually LEARN... and up to the parents to make sure the kids ARE learning. The mentality that it's all the school's fault, and the parents and kids have no responsibility, makes my blood boil! ARGGHHH!

According to a study published in February, 2004, by The Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York, pregnancy rates among US teenagers has been declining. The report, which studies teen pregnancy through the year 2000, found that between 1990 and 2000 the teenage pregnancy rate declined 2%, from 85 to 83 pregnancies per 1,000 girls aged 15-19. Good news, right? Of the nearly 822,000 pregnancies, 469,000 resulted in live births, 235,000 were aborted, and 118,000 were either miscarried or stillborn. In the year 2000, 4.058 million babies were born in the USA, which means that over 20% of the babies born in 2000 had mothers between the ages of 15-19.

The school referenced above has a pregnancy rate of 13%; in 2000, the national average was only 8%. Why the difference? Who knows...maybe these kids are repeating their parent's cycle of teenage pregnancy. Maybe it's because the teens are too embarrassed or irresponsible to use birth control. Maybe it's because no one has taken the time to educate them about the risks associated with unprotected sex. Most likely, it's a combination of all three.

So, the question is- what do we do to reduce teenage pregnancies? I do agree that sex ed should be covered in school, but it's not up to the schools to prevent teenage pregnancy. It's up to the kids and their parents to actually PREVENT the pregnancies. Parents need to be more up front with their kids about sex and parenting. I was born to a teenage mother myself. When I was about 20, she told me that she wished she would have aborted me, because she missed out on so much of her childhood. It's true- she did miss out on the end of her own childhood. I think she was also telling me to go enjoy life, and don't grow up too soon.

I'm sick and tired of American parents blaming the short-comings of their children on the schools. At some point, the parents and kids have to take responsibility for their own development. My boys are young, so pregnancy isn't an issue for me- yet. They're still learning to read, write and spell in school. But that doesn't mean that I believe they will only learn those skills in school- I have an obligation as their Mother to ensure they are, in fact, learning those skills. I will continue to have a role in their education throughout their childhood, and well into their teenage years. Why is it that we, as parents, assume that teaching our children anything from language arts to geography to sex education is the sole responsibility of the school systems? It's ridiculous to think that teachers can teach our kids absolutely everything.

Parents- take a stand. Take part in your kid's education. Including Sex Education. Don't be too embarrassed to discuss it with them. You talk to them about the dangers of reckless driving, and drug use- both of which could have life long consequences. So why not discuss birth control and sex? Is it really that hard to talk to your kids about what could be a life-altering event? You are the first and most influential teacher they will ever have- use that to your advantage and teach them about birth control and sex.


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