Teen Pregnancy on the Rise

After more than a decade of declines, CDC reports more teens are giving birth.

February 28, 2009, 5:06 PM

Feb. 28, 2009— -- Carmen Sauceda, a 17-year-old high school athlete from Dallas, once dreamed of attending college, but with a newborn baby girl, those dreams will have to take a backseat to motherhood.

The gifts she recently received at her baby shower have done little to calm her anxiety, because she doesn't think she's ready.

"I don't feel like an adult. But now I have to act like one for my child," Sauceda said.

The 17-year-old is not alone. For the first time in more than a dozen years, more American teenagers are putting off their own dreams of college and success to raise families.

After more than a decade of declines, the Centers for Disease Control reports that teen pregnancy is on the rise again.

According to the CDC's final numbers for 2006, just released this year, the teenage birth rate increased 3 percent, putting a stop to the 14-year decline from 1991-2005.

According to the report, teen birth rates were highest in the South and Southwest. Mississippi led the way, followed closely by New Mexico and Texas.

The only states that saw a decrease in teen birth rates were North Dakota, Rhode Island and New York. Some experts say that the reason for the rise is that today's teenagers are less informed than their parents were.

"Believe it or not, kids today get less information in schools about birth control than their parents did," Columbia University professor Leslie M. Kantor said.

Experts place the blame on federal programs that teach abstinence alone, in lieu of a variety of birth control options. That's created a backlash in many states, half of which no longer accept federal money because they do not want to be restricted to abstinence-only education.

Kantor said states are banking on the possibility that the government will soon come to its own realization.

"The states know what the federal government will hopefully follow suit on," Kantor said. "Abstinence-only programs are a waste of money."

But abstinence educators say not so fast. They believe teaching about contraceptives sends a mixed message.

"Abstinence is the best choice in order for you to know that you don't have an STD and you definitely won't get pregnant," abstinence instructor Karen Porter said.

While that may be the best choice, new teen mom Bristol Palin, daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, said it's just not practical.

"Everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it's not realistic at all," Bristol Palin said.

While educators debate exactly what to teach, more and more young women like Carmen Sauceda find themselves struggling with a real-life lesson-how to raise a child, when they are still one themselves.

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