>>I planned getting pregnant and having children like I was producing a movie. I bought a house, married my Prince Charming, and established myself in my career before having a child. My story had a beginning, and arch and a happy ending. To be truthful – playing Russian Roulette with my future and that of my unborn child’s never appealed to me in my single days, and I was lucky to have the knowledge and means to avoid the game.
Not every teen has the maturity, family support and resources to choose the path I did. We’d all like to think that our teens wouldn’t tempt fate, but not all of them are getting the education or role models to avoid an unwanted pregnancy at home.
That’s why news that the Trump administration’s plan to eliminate the federal Office of Adolescent Health and cut funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative is mind boggling to me. We’ve seen major successes in our state. According to Shift NC, teen pregnancy rates have dropped by 71% since 1991 and the rate of decline is getting faster. The Initiative funds almost eight million dollars in projects in the state every year and will serve more than 70,000 youth between 2015 and 2020.
And if you think our work is done – you’re wrong. Black and Latino communities still have disproportionately high rates of teen pregnancies, and as a whole, America’s teen birth rate is still higher than most countries in Western Europe. Let me be blunt. We’ve had some major success in teen pregnancy prevention, but we’ve not eliminated hormones. Our teens will still want to have sex. They’ll still have sex. If we strip away the tools teaching prevention and protection, we’re going to spend far more than we are now. Shift NC estimates that teen births in the state cost taxpayers 325 million dollars each year. And guess what – that’s more than the nationwide savings the country we’ll see by cutting the program (213 million dollars).
Aside from the cost of teen births, think of the impact it has on their lives. I have a vivid memory of a close friend my freshman year in high school who got pregnant by an upper classman. We had just tucked our Barbies away a few years before, and now my friend was dealing with a real life dilemma. Out of respect for her privacy, I’ll spare any more details but will say that experience impacted her and her family for years. She’s not alone. Only 40% of teen moms finish high school, let alone attain higher education.
We’ve got to fight yet another policy shift on the national level that disempowers women and children. Stepping onto my soapbox for a minute – here’s how I see it in plain English. We’re cutting teen pregnancy prevention, we’re reducing access to abortion, we don’t properly fund Pre-K or child care programs so young moms have no way to raise their children properly and get ahead, and on top of that, we’re reducing access to maternity care and health coverage in general. The vicious cycle we’re creating is spinning already and set to destroy real progress we’ve made in recent years.
So ladies fight back. We were all teens once. Some of us have teen daughters, or soon to be (gulp). We all have a vested interest in this and it’s one more reason we need to rise up.