Children having children

 

By Mary Kuhlman

Teen pregnancy rates have reached historic lows in recent years, but there are still an estimated 23 Hoosier teens who become pregnant each day.

During National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month in May, reproductive health advocates are highlighting the impact of teen pregnancy on families and society.

Betty Cockrum, president and CEO with Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, says teen childbearing has far-reaching consequences beyond public health costs.

"The long-term implications of what you could characterize as 'girl interrupted,'" says Cockrum. "When you have a young person taking on the responsibility of parenting before they're really even ready to live independently themselves, it introduces all kinds of challenges."

Cockrum says children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement, have more health problems and become a teen parent themselves.

Teen births cost Indiana taxpayers at least $227 million in 2010. Cockrum says education and elected leaders, as well as parents, should understand the implications of teen pregnancy and focus on sex education that is accurate - and non-judgmental.

Cockrum says programs that focus only on abstinence are not working. She says sex education programs should include an abstinence-plus curriculum.

"Abstinence is what's emphasized for young people," she says. "But should they decide to become sexually active, they need to understand what the implications of that are so they know how to protect themselves from pregnancy and STD."

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. hit its lowest point in more than three decades, down 51 percent in 2010 from its peak in 1990.

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