Thursday, April 12, 2012
Editorial: Teen births trend in right direction
More teens are delaying sex or using contraception, good behavior that needs to be reinforced.
From the RoundTable blog
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Far fewer teenagers are having sex, and those who do are more serious about using contraceptives. That's the good news found this week in a report on teenage pregnancies by the statistical arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The news is worth celebrating: Nationwide, 9 percent fewer teens aged 15 to 19 had babies in 2010 compared with 2009, and the rate was 44 percent below the 1991 peak. Virginia was among the states recording the most significant declines; 7,373 children were born to teen moms in 2010, down 20 percent from the 9,200 born just three years earlier.
Still, there is much work to do in helping teens understand that delaying sex really is to their advantage, and in educating those who do not wish to practice abstinence to practice brith control. That job first falls to parents (who can find a wealth of information on how to talk with their adolescents through the CDC's cdc.gov/TeenPregnancy/Parents.htm), but schools and community organizations can, and should, play a substantial supporting role.
The news that significant progress is being made in lowering teen pregnancies comes at a troublesome time. Contraception has become the latest political football with zealots wishing to make access difficult for women of any age, let alone teens. And budget makers looking to squeeze out "optional" spending home in on teen pregnancy prevention programs. Both are mistakes.
While progress in bringing down the rate is laudable, much work still needs to be done as teen pregnancies cost taxpayers $11 billion a year. Half of teen moms, the vast majority of whom remain unmarried, fail to graduate from high school. Their lost earning power and their heavy reliance on welfare and social programs exact a heavy toll on themselves, their children and their communities.
Prevention is key, whether through educational programs that help teens make good decisions or through available contraception that at least minimizes the consequences of bad decisions.
The numbers are moving in the right direction, but there's a long way yet to go. Each one of those numbers is a family that will struggle simply because it was started too soon.