The CDC announced today that Mississippi leads the nation in teen pregnancies. According to news reports:
Mississippi reported 55 births per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19 in 2010, more than 60 percent above the U.S. average, according to state data released on Tuesday.
New Hampshire reports the lowest rate of teen pregnancies.
This news follows an announcement last month from Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant of the formation of a task force to work on reducing teen pregnancy rates in the state. The programs, called Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi, will involve public health agencies, public schools, faith based organizations as well as teens themselves.
Governor Bryant says the program goal of reducing the number of pregnancies, ages 8 through 19 by 15 percent by 2017. It also aims to reduce the percentage of repeat teen births from 21.4 percent to 15 percent in five years.
“Obviously, what we’re doing isn’t working”, said the Governor.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, Mississippi law explicitly allows for teens to have access to contraception by medical referral or if they’re already married or parents. Mississippi currently has no sex education mandate and when sex education is provided, the only criteria is that it be age appropriate it is not explicitly mandated that information must be accurate.
This overt recognition that the status quo for sexual health and education for young people in the state seems to me to be an excellent first step. As we all know, the consequences for teen parenthood can involve thwarted educational goals, difficulty finding jobs, and poverty and it’s related risks. Finding new ways to educate teens about sex, sexual health and sexual responsibility can only help in the future.
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