Here is the story with my commentary in red.
Birth rate for adolescents is on the rise again after 15 years of decline
JOHN R. MCCUTCHEN / Union-Tribune
Hazel Herrera, who spends about four hours a day on buses, waits at a bus stop with her son. "I was really happy about the baby," she said. "Having a kid is a blessing to me."
From 2005 to 2006, the birth rate among teens 15 to 19 rose 3 percent nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though 2007 figures won't be available until late this year, experts say the teen birth rate will likely edge up again.
“When the CDC announced the teen birth rate had gone up 3 percent, that was met with a collective yawn,” said Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington, D.C. “I wish half the energy that has been expended on Bristol Palin would have been expended on preventing teen pregnancies. That to me is what's deserving of national attention, focus and energy.”
Out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy has been all over the entertainment media lately. Pregnant teens have shown up in the movies (“Juno”), on TV (“The Baby Borrowers,” “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”), and in the real-life sagas of 16-year-old former Nickelodeon star Jamie Lynn Spears and the supposed pregnancy pact among 17 Massachusetts high school students.
Some worry that unrealistic portrayals – from glamour shots of pregnant celebrities to movies like “Juno,” in which a precocious high schooler happily hands over her baby to a rich, beautiful adoptive mother – make child-bearing seem a bit too easy.
But those who work with teens say peers have a much bigger influence on how teens view having babies. Many high schools in San Diego County have programs for teen mothers, enabling them to learn parenting skills while continue their education.
Such openness is perhaps good for the mothers and their babies, but it can also give the appearance to other teens that getting pregnant isn't so out of the ordinary, said Lori Butler, executive director of Girls Inc. of San Diego County, which offers teen pregnancy prevention programs.
“Peer pressure, home life and culture have a lot more influence on a girl than a particular celebrity,” Butler said. “Teen pregnancy doesn't have that much of a stigma anymore.”
Reducing the teen birth rate has largely been a success. From 1991 to 2005, the teen birth rate dropped more than 34 percent, according to the CDC. In California, rates dropped 46 percent.
Some credit California's dramatic decline to the state's refusal to accept federal dollars for abstinence-only sex education.(Go California)
“Abstinence-only education programs are a proven failure,” said Vince Gill, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside counties. “They have no effect on teenagers' decision to have sex. The only effect is that teenagers are less likely to use condoms.”
With the teen pregnancy problem seemingly under control, groups working on prevention saw funding shifted to other public health issues, such as obesity. In California, funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs was cut by 37 percent in fiscal 2007-08. Further cuts are expected this year.
In 2007, the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey of some 14,000 high school students found that after years of decline, slightly more students reported they'd had sex, while condom use rates appeared to have leveled off.
Better treatments for HIV and AIDS may mean teens are taking more risks.
And experts trying to convince teens to hold off having babies face other challenges. While many teen pregnancies are unintentional, some teens believe a baby will solidify their relationship.
“That happens more frequently than any adults or parents could possibly imagine,” Butler said.
Hazel Herrera was 15 when she became pregnant. Her grandmother kicked her out of the house. Though the pregnancy was unplanned, she wanted to have a family with her boyfriend and never considered abortion.
“I was really happy about the baby,” she said. “Having a kid is a blessing to me. I knew everything was going to be OK. I'm a Christian. I thought God would provide.”
Herrera found a place to live at the Martha and Mary House, a maternity home in Escondido that takes in pregnant women and teens.
Now 18, Herrera, her now husband and their nearly 2-year-old son live with her mother and sister in La Jolla. She spends three to four hours on buses daily, taking her son to day-care before heading to classes at San Diego Mesa College. She picks him up in the late afternoon and takes the bus home.
“They expected me to not be able to provide a good home or a life for my baby. I didn't think of it that way,” she said. “I could do anything anybody else could do.”
Still, many teen mothers face serious hurdles. Less than 40 percent of teen mothers graduate from high school, Alpert said. Teen moms and their children are more likely to live in poverty.
Given the political landscape, it's no surprise that Bristol Palin's revelation was seen through the prism of the abortion wars. Sarah Palin favors abstinence-only sex education and is an opponent of legal abortion even in cases of rape or incest.
Some believe the abortion debates have hijacked the discussion about teen pregnancy, drowning out other options.
Sarah Jensen, executive director of the Adoption Center of San Diego, speaks to young women at high schools and colleges about today's “open” adoptions, in which the birth mother can choose the adoptive family and remain in contact with the child.(This really bothers me. I don't want my daughters targeted in their schools for adoption agencies. What really bugs me is that they forget that these adoptees do grow up and become adults. Its fine to give the unborn rights but what about the born? We forget their rights once they are born. Both sides neglect that child once that child becomes an adult. I think they should consult with adoptees both on a legislative level and lower. We are the products of this so called social experiment.)
“Adoption really isn't discussed in pro-choice or pro-life circles,” she said. “You don't often hear how rewarding adoption is for the birth mother. When they choose adoption, they are able to choose the future for their baby.” (Yea right adoption is not rewarding for the mother especially if she is coerced by her family, the adoptive family and the agency involved. I am getting more and more mothers approaching me for help. Sadly I can not give any help after the paperwork has been signed. More and more mothers are realizing that they made a mistake by relinquishing their rights as mothers.
Cassie, 16, became pregnant as a high school sophomore. She knew she did not want to raise the child.
“I knew I wouldn't be able to provide for a child and go to college,” she said. “My mom was a single mother, and she struggled. I wanted my child to grow up with two parents.”
Scared, she considered abortion. Then she realized she would always wonder what could have been if she'd had the baby. With the help of her mother and the Adoption Center, she chose a family from Poway, who will adopt the baby after she delivers this fall.
Cassie did not want her last name used because at her school, teens who get pregnant either have an abortion or raise the baby. She didn't think they would understand.
“I'm at peace with it,” she said.(You won't be when it comes afterwards. You will regret your decision)
Above all, those who work with teens would like to make sure girls don't have to make such life-altering decisions in the first place.
“We are a very accepting culture, which is a very good thing. We don't rightfully believe in stigma,” Albert said. “But there is a difference between shame and stigma. We have to make sure we're telling teens that pregnancy is not in your best interests.”