Your Chickasaw Journal wraps up a five-week series today on teen pregnancy so the headline of this column has double meaning.
I am a firm believer that words have power.
A person’s name, a curse or something sweet whispered in someone’s ear. Words make things happen.
We hope you have been reading these articles. Lisa Voyles has gone at this issue from the angle of features on people affected by teen pregnancy. Yours truly has been digging into the facts and figures trying to make sense of the numbers that are way too high and all too startling.
I can’t say I enjoyed doing this series. The idea of pregnant teen moms, dads who don’t care and children faced with a tough future don’t make for light copy.
And then there is the social stigma – and in some cases, the absence of it – that all cultures and communities that make up Chickasaw County attach to teen pregnancy.
But if everything I did at the Chickasaw Journal, was fun they would call it play. This series has been a lot of work.
I can only hope we now take the word and stories of the past five weeks and use them to make our world better.
I’m a career newspaperman. We’ll let the facts speak for themselves.
• Only 44-percent of girls and 27-percent of boys have spoken with their parents about both abstinence and birth control.
• Over 40 percent of all teen pregnancies in the state are fathered by men over age 20.
• Pregnancies where the father is two years older than the mother – and the mother is under 18 — can be prosecuted as statutory rape. The sentence for a conviction can range from 10 to 20 years.
• Teen births cost Mississippi $155 million in 2009.
• Almost 80 percent of teen moms will receive welfare assistance and public health care at some point.
• Only 40 percent of teen moms finish high school.
• One-third of female dropouts cite pregnancy and parenthood as the reason for leaving school.
• Less than 2 percent of teenagers who get pregnant finish college.
• A teen is most likely to get pregnant between 4 and 6 p.m. on a weekday.
• “Sex education may be a good idea in the schools, but I don’t believe the kids should be given homework”
– Bill Cosby.
• “Birth is nothing where virtue is not”
• “The best sex education for kids is when Daddy pats Mommy on the fanny when he comes home from work.”
Dr. William H. Masters
“There is little evidence to support the common belief that teenage mothers become pregnant to get benefits, welfare and government housing. Most knew little about housing or financial aid before they got pregnant and what they thought they knew turned out to be wrong.”
T. Tamkins, PhD.
What I’ve learned
I’m 54. I’ve been married 25 years. I have four boys.
But this series has taught me a lot.
Two key points were touched on in our first story by school guidance counselors at Houston, Houlka and Okolona schools.
They offered these two facts to stopping teen pregnancy.
Parent involvement – Each said girls and boys who have a strong father figure and a mother they can talk to, tend not to get pregnant and do better with the pregnancy and raising the child if they do.
Sex education – Each said boys and girls who have the knowledge of what causes pregnancy, ways to prevent it, and/or reasons to abstain tend to not get pregnant.
Now that all has been written and said, I want to add this third piece of advice.
Let’s find some money to help solve this problem. Let’s find some local saints who are willing to tackle it. Let’s set a deadline for doing something – how about nine short months?
Until the good people of Chickasaw County make a concerted effort to combat teen pregnancy, we will continue to lead the state that leads the nation in teen pregnancy.
Floyd Ingram is Managing Editor/News for the Chickasaw Journal. He can be reached at 456-3771 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org