The Naked Truth/Jamala Rogers
Teen Pregnancy and Life
Opportunities
Jamala Rogers
From time to time, the foolishness of the orange man in the White House and his rogue administration will
overshadow news that we should know about. Their antics and white noise will also eclipse victories that we
should be celebrating and building on. The recent reports of the historic low in U.S. teen pregnancy rates are one
such example.

U.S. pregnancy rates are still higher than our counterparts in the industrialize world, and has been for a while.
As much as the North Korea is demonized (with sound reasons), it has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in
the world.

Teen pregnancies have devastating consequences on teens in general, but for teens locked in a world of
poverty, an unplanned pregnancy is almost a guarantee for obstacles that impact futures. Obstacles like
graduating from high school and going on to an institution of higher education or vocational training. Obstacles
like breaking the cycle of poverty that often becomes intergenerational. Obstacles like medical and health issues that can worsen later in life.
And on and on.

Teen pregnancies in this country have been decreasing over time. Those who study the factors often point to access to sex education and
access to better family planning. Yes, I said it! Agencies like Planned Parenthood have played a critical role in the decline in teen births by
providing education and appropriate birth control choices.

This nation must do a lot more on educating young people on sex, especially given their over-exposure to sex through TV, movies, games and
porno. Then people can see how out of touch and un-informed our legislators and policy-makers are on this topic. Remember the good ole boy
from Missouri who made the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate rape. Former State Rep. Todd Aiken’s version of how a woman’s
body can shut down during rape to prevent a pregnancy cost him his Senate election. More important, the backward statement put a spotlight
on the Neanderthal thinking that leads to policies and laws that are harmful to women.

More can be done on including sex ed in public schools. Right now, there are only 24 states that mandate sex education. Wisconsin is not one
of them. Earth to Wisconsin: Not talking about sex with young people doesn’t mean they aren’t sexually active. It only means they are engaging
in an activity where they are not fully aware of options and consequences.

We cannot fully count on schools to be the prime sex educators. Sometimes, even when sex education is mandated, it doesn’t always mean
the topic is being approached with an openness and with a fluidity of facts. Currently, we can’t even count on that education coming from
parents who may also be misinformed or ill-equipped to have such a frightening discussion with their children who are experiencing raging
hormones.

Here’s where I think the rubber is meeting the road away from teen births. For the last decade or so, many organizations have made this issue
a focus by putting attention and resources on girls. There has been a plethora of girl-centered programs, projects and campaigns to emphasize
and illuminate the worth of girls. From Girls Incorporated to “Black Girls Rock”, females of all ages are understanding the keys to unlocking
their power. Girls are being funneled into more math and science programs and projects. They are being mentored by empowered women from
career fields to entrepreneurs to community organizers. I believe these unseen and immeasurable roles and activities often get minimized
when it comes to ensuring that girls — especially girls in poverty — see their full potential and are enthusiastically supported in reaching those
heights.

Declining teen birth rates is great news but we can’t sit on our laurels. Wisconsin citizens, you have work to do with your legislature to make
your state is the 25th to mandate sex education. Let’s continue to show young boys and girls the benefits of delaying sex and babies by making
sure there are plenty of opportunities for supervised fun, academic enrichment and personal development.