Is There an Answer to Preventing Teenage Pregnancy?

Teenage pregnancy is costly to society in many ways. First, it costs lives. Young mothers who are physically and mentally unprepared to give birth often lose their lives during delivery. The infant mortality rate is also higher for these young mothers because they don’t always get the prenatal care and counseling they need for a healthy birth..

Another cost of teenage pregnancy is monetary. Society usually ends up supporting both the teenage mother and her child. Because a teenage pregnancy leaves the mother with few marketable skills, she often finds herself trapped in a welfare system that is difficult to escape.

Despite a declining teenage pregnancy rate, taxpayers spend an approximate nine million a year to support teenagers and their children. Research shows that the children born to these teenagers will also cost society more. Overall, they have more behavioral problems and more trouble in school. They also tend to repeat the pattern set by their parents and become teenage parents themselves. Those who experience teenage pregnancy are also more likely to live their lives in poverty than older parents.

During the 1980’s, sex education was thought to be the answer to reducing teenage pregnancy. Many educators felt that teenagers armed with birth control information would make better sexual decisions.

Most schools instigated classes to debunk sexual myths and give as much factual information as possible. Some school health nurses even distributed birth control to those who asked. Teenage pregnancy increased sharply at the end of this decade.

During the 1990’s, America’s moral conscience spoke. School sponsored sex education might be actually encouraging our teens to be sexually active. Also, many felt that this education might lead to an increase in abortion rather than a reduction in teenage pregnancy rates.

The Title V Abstinence-Only Education block grant became law as a part of the 1996 welfare reform law. This new attempt to end teenage pregnancy was scientifically evaluated in 2007. The government reported that teenagers involved in an abstinence only program were no less likely to be sexually active than those in a control group. Neither did they differ in the amount of unprotected sex or number of partners.

During this time, however, teenage pregnancy rates did decline. Does this indicate success? Does it only show that teenagers are becoming more aware of and more willing to use methods of birth control? Time and statistics will eventually give the answer.