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Baby, Think It Over: N.C. Ranks 9th for Teen Pregnancies

Posted December 7, 2007

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— Newly released statistics show that teen pregnancies are up across the country for the first time in 14 years. Although North Carolina's rate actually dropped, experts say it is still alarming – the ninth-highest in the country.

In 2006, 19,192 girls between the ages of 15 and 19, both married and unmarried, got pregnant in North Carolina. Of those teens, 29 percent had been pregnant before. Some research shows that 63 percent of high school seniors said they had had sex.

The costs of those pregnancies to the state are also high: a total of $312 million, including Medicaid, child-care and welfare expenses, in 2004, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Of those costs, 41 percent were born by the federal government and 59 percent by the state and localities.

At Dunn Middle School, life-skills teacher Elizabeth D'Herde has made it her mission to give her students a reality check on what it means to be a parent. For five years, she's taught a course called "Baby, Think It Over" to seventh-grade boys and girls.

Students are given dolls resembling 3-month-old babies. And like infants, these dolls cry constantly and rarely sleep.

"I want them to see the real effect of taking care of a child and what the responsibilities of being a parent are," D'Herde said.

State lawmakers are considering mandating comprehensive sex education from kindergarten to ninth grade. A bill before the the North Carolina House and Senate would require that all students from seventh grade on be taught four main lessons:

  • that abstinence is "the only certain way to prevent unintended pregnancy" and "reduce the sexual transmission of diseases, including HIV/AIDS."
  • about how sexually transmitted diseases are spread, the effectiveness of federal Food and Drug Administration-approved methods to reduce the risk of transmission and local resources for testing and treating STDs.
  • about the effectiveness and safety of FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception.
  • life skills for healthy behaviors and to avoid risky behaviors, such as alcohol and drug abuse, especially intravenous drug use.

The bill would allow abstinence-only programs to be taught up to the seventh grade and require that school systems allow parents to review all sexual-education materials before they are taught.

North Carolina's current sex education curriculum focuses mostly on encouraging abstinence until marriage for middle- and high-school students.

In D'Herde's classes, the message of parental responsibility seems to be getting through to students.

The "mommies" and "daddies" are responsible for caring for their "children" for 24 to 48 hours. They must take the dolls – and their car seats – with them everywhere they go. One hour of babysitting is the only break they get, and the dolls get much louder during the night.

"I rocked it and rocked it, and it wouldn't stop," seventh-grade 'mommy' Keitora Smith said. "I put the sensor in, laid it back down, and it went, ugh, and started crying again."

D'Herde said she hopes students will remember the experience when they are in high school and most at risk of pregnancy.

"I'm not going to have a baby when I'm a teenager," Keitora said.

"I wouldn't be ready to be a parent," another "mommy" agreed.


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  • elcid89 Dec 9, 2007

    I had a similar experience, weasle. I can identify with the jaw dropping and the "I expected to have a few more years before we had this conversation" feeling. I consider myself open-minded and progressive, and the very idea of having it when we did even made me uncomfortable. Still, they decide when they're going to ask, we don't.

    The bottom line is that I think we all want to do what's best for our kids. We'd all probably agree that we'd love it if they stayed kids longer than they do, but the world we're living in makes that less and less likely. Not idea by any means, granted, but it is what it is. Trying to pretend it isn't happening won't keep it from happening, as much as we'd all probably like for it to. Doing that just limits how much of a positive influence we can exert on it.

  • weasleyes Dec 9, 2007

    Eclid and TMedlin: LOL at your earlier posts, e.g. "wrap that rascal." When my son was about 7-8, I was reading a book, laying on the couch, and he came up to me with big eyes, and said "Dad, Stephanie (his cousin, 9) and them are talking about things I don't understand. I want to know all about sex and 'rapery!'" When they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to know. I nearly choked to death. My reply was "Buddy, you and I need to go down to the pond and talk awhile "..... and we did, about everything! After we finished I told him that if he had any more questions, "You need to ask Dr. Thomas or your momma!" Momma was glad that I was the one to give him his "sex talk" but she didn't like the last instruction (ask you momma)that I gave him ONE BLINKING BIT! Bottom line: Old enough to ask, old enough to know!

  • Like that Dec 9, 2007

    Whoever decided to incorporate 'abstinence only' needs to read the studies. The abstinence only programs have been proven to be ineffective in preventing teen pregnancy. Programs that promote abstinence and provide thorough information about ALL consequences of sex at an early age have shown to help teens in making informed decisions about sex. You have to tell teens everything and let them decide because if you just say don't do it, they will do it just to spite you and everyone will suffer the consequences.

  • california girl Dec 9, 2007

    I remember the first sex ed class I went to, in 4th grade. My mother was an obgyn in the city where she regularly delivered babies to 12 and 13 year olds. She was the first to sign me up for the class. And yes you had to be signed up. I am so glad that she did. I waited till I was 19 before ever doing anything at all and was made fun of in high school, nickname the virgin mary. I am atheist and I know a lot of people contribute good abstinent kids to Christianity and these teachings. People in my classes that were not allowed to go because of religion were the same kids that were pregnant in 8th 9th and 10th grades. Parents do not teach their kids the right things usually too embaressed to talk to them about sex and stds etc. The kids pay for this because they have no clue what can happen when they become sexually active. We need these classes they help a lot!

  • newlife805 Dec 8, 2007

    Sorry guys, can't get the whole article in the blog. Go to the http address and you will some very alarming figures. We have to face it people. We can't turn our backs on the fact that children, yes children, are having sexual encounters. Doesn't always mean full-blown intercourse, but they are doing more then you think.

  • newlife805 Dec 8, 2007

    Kids having sex
    Philadelphia Inquirer on August 09, 1999
    He shouldn't have been. People who deal with adolescents are beginning to realize what some teenagers take for granted: that younger children are engaged in more sexual activity than most adults know.

    "In middle school, parents are still thinking milk and cookies," said Zandile Bley, 16, of Jersey City, N.J., who writes for Sex, Etc., a national newsletter for teens published by Rutgers University. But, she said, even in grammar school, she heard about students having oral sex.

    By the time they get to high school, "it's really not such a big deal" - nearly as casual as kissing, she said.

    In York Haven, a town of bait shops and frame houses strung along the bluffs above the river, teenagers were likewise unfazed. "Are kids having sex in middle school?" asked Jessica McCartney, 14, who was among a group of teenagers hanging around recently outside a pizza shop.

    She glanc

  • newlife805 Dec 8, 2007

    From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    Kids having sex
    Philadelphia Inquirer on August 09, 1999
    The idea makes adults so uncomfortable that it's hardly been studied. But it's happening: Oral sex and intercourse among middle schoolers, and children even younger.

    Parents are shocked. Peers are not.

    It's been the talk of York Haven, Pa., these last few weeks: the revelation that 17 children, ages 7 to 16, in this quiet Susquehanna River town had been teaching one another how to have sex.

    Two things rattled Newberry Township Police Chief William Myers, who handled the case: the ages of the children - many were in the sixth to eighth grades - and their "so-what" attitude.

    "They didn't comprehend the seriousness, or possible ramifications," Myers said. "I was caught off guard."

    He shouldn't have been. People who deal with adolescents are beginning to realize what some teenagers take for granted: that younger children are engaged in more sexual a

  • mvnull Dec 8, 2007

    "I find it interesting, as a Christian myself, that teenage pregnancy rates are higher in the bible belt than outside of the bible belt."

    Another interesting statistic is that the divorce rate among Evangelical Christians is higher than the national average. The reports I see attribute this to abstinence. Marry, have sex, divorce, rinse and repeat. (This is merely an interpretation, and so is someone ideas about it, not actual data).

  • uncbabie Dec 8, 2007

    I am thankful that my HS health teacher (in 1999) bypassed what they were supposed to teach, and taught us what we needed to know. They risked their job, but there are many, many more kids better off for it.

  • 1Moms_View Dec 8, 2007

    Nancy, when my uncle taught in GA, he overhead a student saying she couldn't wait to turn 16. He thought she meant to drive, until he heard the rest of the conversation. She wanted to turn 16, get pregnant and "get her money" like her mom did. So, the cycle continues..

    On that note, I'm out of here too. I hate shopping on any day, much less a Sat. during holiday season. Taking my crew to a parade a holiday celebration instead.