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03/18/2009

Kids Having Kids…and Adults, Too

For the second year in a row the teenage birth rate has increased, reports the Washington Post.

pregnant-teen.jpg

No one is certain as to the reason why, but many are pointing the finger at the abstinence-only sex education programs of the last eight years promoted by the previous Bush administration, stating that they simply do not work. Putting it simply: teenagers will have sex. The key, of course, is teaching them is how to prevent pregnancy, not to prevent sex. The moral responsibility is not to put one’s own values on teens and to convince them that premarital sex is bad, but to make sure that if they are going to have sex that they prevent unintended pregnancies.

Interestingly enough is this other statistic from WaPo: “The new statistics also showed that the total number of U.S. births in 2007 — 4,317,419 — was the highest on record, surpassing the peak “baby boom” year of 1957.” It turns out that not just teens are having babies, but everyone is. Why is this important? Well, in a bad economy and even worse healthcare crisis, we are in the midst of an even bigger baby boom. So if we don’t solve the former two problems, who will care for these infants as they grow into children and then adults? And with 1 in 80 white males being diagnosed with autism (to pick just one health condition), and half of the above number (approximately) identifying as such, you do the math….

With headlines every day of patients cutting back on prescription drugs and necessary medical appointments because they cannot afford them, and now a baby makes three? Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. Babies are supposed to be a blessing, but absent radical healthcare reform and adequate coverage for mommy and baby (and daddy, too), whether the parents are teens, in their 20s, or 40s, it’s guaranteed to create huge problems for the family, but also for whatever healthcare system is created.

Anyway you slice it, these new statistics are troubling.

Summer Johnson, PhD

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