Despite the fact that the number of teen pregnancies has steadily declined over the last decade, 55 births in 1,000 still occur among 15- to 19-year-olds in the state of Mississippi compared to a national average of 34.3 according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
The state is has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the nation, a statistic that Governor Phil Bryant has created a task force to combat, a giant leap forward in a state that traditionally avoids discussing the topic at all.
Mississippi is also one of the nation’s most impoverished states, a fact that researchers say contributes to a high rate of teen pregnancy. Girls who feel that their is no hope of rising above their current economic status are less likely to take action to prevent pregnancy.
It is this attitude exactly that representatives of the Delta Health Initiative, an organization tasked with preventing teen pregnancy, hopes to change, even going so far to visit girls in their homes to offer support and education.
A new state law, effective next year, will require schools to teach sexual education and will give them more flexibility in the information they are allowed to provide regarding birth control options. This a change from previous policies that required schools to get special permission to teach anything but abstinence only.
Photo credit: iStock