Teen pregnancies are in the spotlight, from Sarah Palin’s unwed daughter Bristol in magazines and on TV with her baby in her arms, to 2007’s Academy Award-winning film “Juno,” and MTV’s new reality show “16 and Pregnant.”
Talk about reality: This year in the United States, more than 750,000 teenagers will become pregnant, according to a report in Women’s E-News, while the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed the teen pregnancy rate increased by three percent in 2006 — the first such U.S. increase in 14 years.
The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world — 14 times higher than Japan, and twice that of Australia and Canada, according to the World Health Organization.
Globally, WHO notes that more than 14 million teenage girls have babies each year — most in developing countries.
Though it does not attribute its statistics, the Christian advocacy Web site Vision.org notes that teen pregnancy rates in Latin America and Africa are double — and in some cases even quadruple — those of the United States.
In developing countries, the problem is compounded by the fact that becoming pregnant too young can be fatal.
A UNICEF study shows more than 70,000 girls or young women between the ages of 15 and 19 die in childbirth each year, most in developing countries.
Solutions are diverse, and often highly political.
Depending on whom you ask, the blame lies with parents who are too permissive — or parents who are too strict — along with too much or too little sex education in the schools.
In Oklahoma, an article on the KXII TV Web site reported that the state has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, at 54.2 percent, with one region, Carter County, at 74.2 percent.
The report quoted a Carter County health official — who said that teens can get confidential counseling and access to contraceptives from her agency — as well as an abstinence-education advocate who said the real issue is “healthy relationships,” and blamed media that are too sexually explicit for the county’s high rate of teen pregnancy.
The Ada Evening News in Ada, Okla., also noted the state’s unusually high rate of teen pregnancy — one of 10 U.S. states that showed a “significant increase” in 2007 — and quoted the director of Hope House Pregnancy Care Center, Rachel Miller, as stating that the age of the girls she’s serving is decreasing.
Miller said that parents and media are too permissive, and said abstinence education is a partial solution.
In Framingham, Mass., MetroWest Daily News quoted one pregnant teen as blaming a lack of sex education and knowledge of contraceptives in her home.
In the United States, the Bush administration spent $1.5 billion between 1996 and 2008 on abstinence-only sex education — something President Obama’s budget eliminates, reports Women’s E News.
In Argentina, things were taken to another level when the International Planned Parenthood Federation launched the world’s first declaration of sexual rights, even for minors, Inter Press Service reports.
But if the tribulations of too-early parenthood weren’t enough, there may be even another reason for young women to try not to get pregnant.
The Vancouver Sun reported on a medical study that shows that pregnant adolescents may have a greater tendency to be obese when they are older.
“16 and pregnant: MTV explores the real secret life”
Seattle Post Intelligencer, June 11, 2009
“Oklahoma’s teen pregnancy rate among highest in U.S.”
KXII.com, June 11, 2009
“Coalition looks to curb teen pregnancy”
Metro West Daily News, June 11, 2009
“Teen pregnancy rates on the rise”
Ada Evening news, June 10, 2009
“On sex education, Bristol’s ex is voice of reason”
Women’s E News (advocacy), June 12, 2009
“Teen Pregnancy: The Tangled Web”
Vision Insights and New Horizons (advocacy), June 8, 2009
“Sexuality is an essential part of humanity”
Inter Press Service (advocacy), June 10, 2009
“Costa Rica remains leader in health but faces uncertain future”
TicoTimes.net, June 2, 2009
“Teen pregancy boosts girls’ risk of getting fact”
Vancouver Sun, June 12, 2009
“Unicef report reveals shocking teen pregnancy death rate”
Now Public News, Jan. 15, 2009
“World Health Organization Statistical Information System”
“World Health Organization: Delivering on global promises of health” (PDF)