Adolescent Pregnancy Must Become a Priority for All Americans

Today, May 6th is the National Day to Prevent
Teen Pregnancy.  It provides U.S. citizens an opportunity to engage in a national
dialogue centered on educating, engaging and empowering our youth by investing in them. This is an urgently needed conversation.

After more than a decade of dramatic
decline in adolescent pregnancy and birth rates, the United
has unexpectedly experienced increases in 2006 and 2007.  Even with the decline, our nation still ranks
first in adolescent pregnancy and birth rates in comparison to other
industrialized countries (almost double the next highest country!). The
reality is sobering: in the United
States one in three girls will become
pregnant before age 20, totaling more than 750,000 girls per year.

Michele Ozumba, President of the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, answers questions about teen pregnancy and what actually works to prevent it.

In Georgia,
some advocates and service providers are having isolated successes, but the majority of programs are
struggling for the resources, support and training efforts necessary to have a
sustainable impact.  We can no longer
waste time and money.  Every day, more than 2,000 girls in America, age 15-19,
give birth – in the wealthiest, most educated nation in the world.  Neither you
nor I should accept this statistic.

My response
has, and will always be, accurate and age-appropriate adolescent pregnancy
prevention must be a priority at the state and federal levels. There must be a
systemic approach where health care providers, teachers, after-school programs,
government agencies, public health officials, parents and young people are
working together with a shared vision and clearly identifiable outcomes, using
proven practices and curricula.

Fortunately, in
a speech last week marking his first 100 days in office, President Obama
commented on forming a Presidential task force to investigate and provide
recommendations on reducing unintended pregnancies, especially among teens.  I
hope his Administration will utilize the scientific information already widely available to fund
programs that work reduce teen pregnancies, HIV and STDs and teach young people
to make healthy, responsible choices.  The
return on the investment will benefit us all.

the President cannot do it alone.  If
adolescent pregnancy prevention is to become a priority, then our strategy, as
advocates, must contain two key elements: civic engagement and education. The Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy
(G-CAPP), the
state-wide organization I founded, has as its mission to eliminate teen pregnancy
in Georgia and is doing so in a unique and dynamic way.  Starting today, G-CAPP will embark on a
groundbreaking, multi-tiered social
mobilization campaign to unify and amplify the voices of concerned individuals. 
We are launching to
bring together concerned people who want to see teen pregnancy rates at zero.
connects organizations, stakeholders and allies in a virtual meeting room where
information and ideas can be shared, discussed and utilized. It is a powerful
tool with unlimited potential. If you listen to the video comments of G-CAPP
President and CEO Michele Ozumba, it
becomes evident why "gPOWER" is
needed.  Our young men and women need to
be heard and we need to listen.  "gPOWER" provides us the space to do both.

Adolescent pregnancy prevention is an American issue. We
must invest in the future of young people to have literate healthy, productive, and economically
self-sustaining citizens.

Join the movement today.  Learn the facts, lend your voice and get

You have
the POWER to make a difference!

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  • invalid-0

    My mother grew up during the days of Barbarella and the Vietnam war head incident. She, like me, was excited to read your book “My life so far.” This book was a real eye opener for me. I was pregnant with my son. This was an accidental pregnancy, but loved and welcomed non-the less. I have a long line of activists and artists in my family. Upon finishing your beautiful story I re-awoke. I found the strong mother, womyn, activist, artist that has been locked up and forgotten for so long. I now sign and push petitions, attend rally’s and protests, senate hearings, etc, for civil rights; womyn’s right to choose, equal marriage laws, adding gender identification and sexual preference to the discrimination laws. You have been an inspiration to me and so many other womyn, young and old and in between. Thank you for your courage to tell your story, and thank you for writing for the much loved RH reality check site!

  • invalid-0

    I think gPOWER is a wonderful idea – I hope to see more states follow that path.

    I do have to take issue with one of the facts in the piece – 2,000 women between 15 and 19 are not giving birth every day. This would be the case if all 750,000 teen pregnancies each year resulted in births, but they don’t. The teen pregnancy rate (as of 2002, which is the most recent data I could find – from the Guttmacher US Teen Pregnancy Statistics report released in Sept. of ’06) was 75.4 and the birth rate that year was 43. Using those rates with 750,000 as the number of pregnancies, about 427,700 would result in a birth. That works out to about 1,170 births.

    I figure if we are always picking apart the ab-only crowd for inaccuracies, we should hold ourselves to a standard at least that high.

    Just another note – The teen birth rate continued to fall until 2005 (40.5/1000), and then went up to 41.9 in 2006 and 42.5 in 2007 (the 2007 number is based on the preliminary data from the CDC). However, I didn’t want to use the updated numbers without a teen pregnancy rate from the same year.

  • invalid-0


    I am really glad that you are raising this issue, and I want to add a disturbing issue, perspective or whatever.

    Several years ago, I worked with teen mothers and pregnant teenagers. During that time, the prevailing research said that 68% of pregnant teens had a history of sexual exploitation. That came from Guttmacher and other respected sources.

    Lately, I have seen different numbers, but from my personal experience, I would say that at least 68% were abused.

    All of the sex education in the world would not change their self-identity and perspectives. They would sit alone in their subsidized apartments crying because their abusive families ostracized them, but their self-identity remained that their purpose in life is to have children. It seemed like nothing else really mattered to them.

    Raising this issue is sometimes difficult because we do not want to make life even more difficult for the teens. However, maybe you have the skills and sincerity to raise that issue and preserve the teen mothers’ dignity.

    Thank you for what you are doing!

    Bob Spencer

  • invalid-0

    Let’s get “physical” education for our teenagers!
    The author stated, “In short, getting pregnant or causing pregnancy, having babies, and starting families are perhaps the most important things we ever do, with generational effects. These major steps need to be thought about carefully, not stumbled into. We think and talk about so many less important things all the time: what’s for dinner, March Madness brackets, what movie to see this weekend…” In today’s society, young women are extremely conscious of their bodies. Just as the author has noted, they tend to stumble into things. However, most spend an inordinate amount of time fretting over their hair, make-up, weight, etc. Let’s appeal to their vanity. I’m a registered nurse and I know for a fact pregnancy in young girls more often than not causes terrible stretchmarks. I’ve worked with women and pregnancy for 25 years. After the age of 20, this is dramatically decreased. I have no stretchmarks on my abdomen or my breasts. They are just as beautiful today (at 55 years of age) as they were when I got pregnant at 23. The female body undergoes a wonderful transformation after 20 with additional hormones that provide greater elasticity via collagen stimulation. Teenager girls do not do this!! Let’s get photos of women (in their 40’s to 50’s)who had babies as teenagers in their skivvies with their abdomens and breasts visable. And let’s also get photos of women (of the same age)who had their first children in their 20’s. Then, let’s blow these photos up into poster-sized wall hangings and hang them in the class prior to the young women coming in. The visible difference is just shocking. I know this well. My mother had my older sister at 18 and her abdomen still looks so painful and stretched. Growing up I thought this happened regardless. It doesn’t. Many, many women undergo abdominoplasty in order to have the stretchmarks removed. Have we ever educated these young women about the need for these hormones in order to have a nice recovery from pregnancy? Don’t we know these girls are quite self-centered at that age and would certainly take notice of this difference in a pregnancy-prepared body as opposed to one that has a very inadequate supply of elasticity? We’re at a point that anything that might help should be incorporated. For several years I taught nurse aide training. I alway directed the conversation to teenage pregnancy as many of the young women were just 18. They were shocked to learn their abdomen and breasts would weather pregnancy much better if they waited until their 20s. It’s all about being informed. I have to give kudos to the author and Ms. Fonda for being outspoken on this issue. Ms. Fonda is right. We need to pull out all the stops. Remember the poster of the beautiful young woman with the partially-blackened face (1980s)? Those posters were placed everywhere by the American Cancer Society with the caption, “If smoking did on the outside what it does on the inside, you wouldn’t smoke.” I quit then. We need to get together and brainstorm about ideas. While this one is a little far-fetched, it’s one that might work. Or at least augment other efforts. Anything at this point.. Thank you, Gayle Clark

  • invalid-0

    Lots and lots of studies show that when a girl believes that no matter what, somehow, she will make it and achieve; then, she will almost never get pregnant or do drugs or quit school.

    That’s an alien attitude for too many girls living in bad and hostile situations. At the same time, if just one person sincerely believes in them, they sometimes do better. They are often fragile so just one person—like a nasty teacher or drunk uncle— can ruin it all when they start to believe in themselves.

    Bob spencer

  • invalid-0

    Someone familiar with data analysis evaluated teen pregnancy trends.

    Most of the recent increase is due to 18 – 19 year-old births, so that’s another reason not to care about an increase in “teen pregnancy” — 18 and 19 year-olds are adults. Moreover, there is an increase across all age groups, especially 20 – 24. So, there’s nothing special about teens of any age — the 15 – 17 year-olds increased a bit, while the 18 and 19 year-olds appear to really be part of a larger group of 18 to 24 year-olds. (Nature doesn’t adhere to our numbering system, where there’s a bright line between 19 and 20.) Births are just up overall, and the closer we get to the female fecundity peak in the early 20s, the stronger the signal is.

    There is a downward trend throughout, with a steady oscillation around that trend. So, the rate will probably continue to decline into the following decades, and we shouldn’t be fooled by a temporary increase. For the near future, it looks like the rate will remain pretty flat for about 5 years, then start to increase again, with a decrease again after that, all on a downward trend.

  • invalid-0

    The single greatest controllable risk for breast cancer is age of mother at birth of first child. Women who wait until after age 20 to have their first baby, steadily increase their cancer risk. Having more babies and having them sooner and breastfeeding each for at least a year is the best protection and what nature intended. The real problem for these young moms is that the father of the baby is not marrying her and taking care of his family. Early motherhood (age 18-20) is normal, natural and healthy. Check your own breast cancer risk with the easy breast cancer risk calculator.

    • invalid-0

      I have to disagree 1000 000000% with you. How old are you? 100? In the late teens and early twenties, most men and women are in college, and having a kid is a burden for both of them. Is not normal to wanting to have kids that early; kids need both parents, not a workaholic/student mother, and party goer father. First, comes education, then, a career. Babies can wait at least until the age of 25. There is not substantial proof about what you’re stating; that the sooner we have’em, the less risks for cancer we’ll have. How do I know this? Because I’m the product of married, teenage parents; workaholic/student mother? check! party goer dad? check! IS NOT HEALTHY FOR THAT KID!