Teen Pregnancies, Dangers on the Rise

Zach Burgess | 6/13/2012, 2 p.m.

After more than a decade in decline, the United States teen pregnancy has been rising in recent years.

According to momlogic.com, the estimated public cost for teen pregnancy in the United States is between $6 and $9 billion a year. Eighty percent of teen moms are on some form of public assistance. Seven out of 10 teen mothers are unlikely to receive prenatal care, which of course has great negative health impacts for their children. Aside from the health risks, kids born to teen mothers are at greater risk for emotional and physical abuse, especially if there is no family support.

"It really is a public health issue," said Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "This administration and this Congress have made a historic investment in preventing teen pregnancy. In our view, this investment could not be more timely... given the fact that the teen pregnancy rate in the United States is on the rise. I think one might say, without hyperbole...that one of the nation's great success stories of the past two decades may be in danger of unraveling. So, this investment is right on for content and right on for timeliness."

Teenage mothers are also at higher risk of having emotional and academic problems later in life. Another startling statistic: baby boys of teen mothers are at an increased risk for incarceration later in their lives, while girls born to teens are more likely to become teen moms themselves.

In the beginning of 2009, President Barack Obama signed an appropriations bill that ended federal funding for existing abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and put a new teenage pregnancy prevention initiative in the newly funded Office of Adolescent Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that was supported with more than $114 million in federal funds.

While the nation's teen pregnancy rate declined about 40 percent between 1990 and 2005, data released by the Guttmacher Institute in January 2010 showed that the rate rose three percent in 2006. According to the institute, the new data is "especially noteworthy because they provide the first documentation of what experts have suspected for several years, based on trends in teens' contraceptive use -- that the overall teen pregnancy rate would increase in the mid-2000s following steep declines in the 1990s and a subsequent plateau in the early 2000s."

And like many other health issues, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is checkered with disparities. In 2006, among Black and Hispanic teens ages 15 to 19, there were about 126 pregnancies per 1,000 women, while among white teens, it was 44 per 1,000. Such statistics mean the United States has the highest teen birth rate among Western, industrialized nations.

Mississippi, for example, has the nation's highest rate of poverty and the third highest rate of teen pregnancies. New Mexico is third in poverty and second in teen pregnancies. Texas leads in teen pregnancies and comes in ninth in the poverty rankings. Other "risk factors" for teenage pregnancy - being a person of color, being disinterested in school, etc. - similarly dovetail with living in poverty. Pennsylvania is ranked 39th in teenage pregnancies.