Why are teen pregnancy rates in the Toledo area so high?
In the latest statistics available from the Ohio Department of Health, Lucas County (Toledo area) has the second highest teenage pregnancy rate in the state of Ohio. It’s difficult to know whether this is due to a lack of education or the general feeling of invincibility that some teens seem to have, as–according to the article, Teenage Birthrate Increases For Second Consecutive Year by Rob Stein and Donna St. George–teen pregnancy rates are on the rise nationally as well.
Whatever the reasons, Toledo is taking action. According to the Lucas County web site, the county is taking steps through a program called Partners for Successful Youth (PSY). Per the web site, PSY’s mission is “to create community will to bring about effective change by educating the public regarding the multi-generational economic and societal impact of teen pregnancy.” Their goal, per the web site, is to bring the Lucas County teen pregnancy rate down to below the state average.
And, for East Toledo children, according to an article by Toledo Blade staff writer Julie M. McKinnon, last year the YWCA began a free after-school program that will educate the children both about sexual health and about employment/personal finance issues, among other topics. According to the article, the program would start with fifth-graders and keep with them through high school.
16 and pregnant…
If you have ever watched an episode of MTV’s documentary series, 16 and Pregnant, the YWCA program seems like what a lot of teens (and pre-teens) all over the country might need. In the MTV series, most of the girls in the episodes seem to view sex with reckless abandon, engaging in unprotected sex without considering the consequences. In episode 202, Nikkole, from Monroe, MI (just across the state line from Toledo), admits to her friends that she and her boyfriend didn’t use protection. In the 16 and Pregnant After Show on the web site, SuChin Pak sits down with Nikkole to talk about the episode. During this interview, Nikkole tells Pak that she just really never thought of needing to use protection.
In the After Show for episode 204, another teen, Chelsea, tells SuChin Pak that she and her boyfriend sometimes used condoms, but not every time. And, much like Nikkole, Chelsea says that she just never thought about protection or the consequences of not using it. While it’s not clear what previous knowledge either girl had of birth control options, it does seem clear that whatever information they’d received about sex did not stress the importance of protection–and not just to prevent pregnancy. These girls–like all sexually active people–should also have been concerned about their health and protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
In the previously mentioned article by Rob Stein and Donna St. George, the writers draw attention to the debate centering around abstinence-only education in schools. Could abstinence-only education be part of the reason for the rise in teen pregnancy rates? It’s hard to know. Most teens have access to the internet, television, books, and–hopefully–a trustworthy adult. With so many sources of information available, it’s hard to imagine that a teen who looks for information cannot find it. So, one can only speculate about the causes. However, education does seem to be the key—and not just learning about how to protect oneself from pregnancy and diseases, but also about how to love and respect oneself. Teens should be able to find their way to a responsible adulthood at their own pace, not at the pace set by a baby.
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