Photo by: Henoc Kivuye
The national teen birth rate has hit an all time low. At 29.4 births per 1,000 there has been no lower rate in all the 73 years the government has been tracking birth rates.
However, in 2011 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ranked Oklahoma as the fourth out of 51 states — 50 states plus the District of Columbia — with one being the highest, in teen birth rates. Oklahoma’s rate is falling along with the rest of the nation, but is still near the top.
“The fact remains that teen childbearing costs Oklahoma taxpayers $190 million annually, not to mention the emotional and financial impact it has on the teens themselves, their families and their child,” Kim Schutz, director of the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said in a recent interview with the Tulsa World.
The same survey showed that in ninth through twelfth grade, 51 percent of teens in Oklahoma had sexual intercourse as compared to the rest of the nation, which stands at 47 percent.
Why did Oklahoma rank so high on the survey? According to Victoria Alexandra, a resident of Oklahoma for nine years and a mother of three children, the problem lies with single parenting.
“The reason why you see many pregnant teens is because it’s a generational cycle,” Alexandra said. “Single parents, especially single moms, are trying to do it all and they don’t have time to concentrate on one kid and help them fully develop into responsible young adults. Most of the time teens that get pregnant at that young age, when their kids become teens, the cycle repeats itself.”
Alexandra advised society to come up with a new method. She said teaching kids about the consequences of having sexual relationships are not ideal anymore. Action needs to be taken through Big Brothers Big Sisters programs intended for the purposes of older women advising younger teen girls to refrain from sexual encounters.
“I would encourage teens to keep themselves until they are married,” Alexandra said. “Respect yourself enough to say, ‘I will wait.’ It may sound old-fashioned, but it makes you confident about yourself. You have to say, ‘I cherish my body enough to wait for the man I marry for that intimacy.’”
Alexandra also said that teens are most likely to rebel if they are given too many rules to follow. As soon as they get away from their families, some teens are eager to experiment with everything they had been prohibited from doing before.
“Suppose you are walking in a neighborhood and you see a sign by one house in big fancy letters asking you not to walk on the grass,” Alexandra said. “The other houses do not have signs. As a curious teen, you will walk on that grass because they asked you not to.”
Some students like sophomores Maegan Cowan and Nikki Crawford advised teens and college students alike to think twice before jumping into a sexual relationship with anyone.
“Every woman or man who wants to have sex should look at herself or himself in the mirror and ask themselves if it is worth it,” Cowan said. “Is this worth the consequences of something possibly happening? And if the answer is no, it will help them make better decisions later.”
According to the survey, 83 percent of males and females in Oklahoma were taught about AIDS and HIV infection in school.
“You should also not have sex with just anybody; it should be with someone you care about,” Crawford said. “Because if you do get pregnant you don’t want to have a baby with a stranger. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you are now linked to someone for life.”
Cowan advised teens not to be pressured to do anything they are not comfortable or not ready to do and to be aware of the consequences of their actions, which could include serious life-threatening diseases like AIDS and STDs (sexually transmitted disease), or unwanted pregnancies.
“You are with this guy, that guy and the other guy,” Cowan said. “They are getting what they are getting, and you are getting what you are getting, but at the end of the day, what are you going home to? You are going home to pain and feeling worthless. And that to me is not worth having sex just to have it because you have to go a little deeper than that.”