By Jane Fonda
May 6, 2009
Today, May 6th is the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. It provides Americans an opportunity to engage in a national dialogue centered on educating, engaging and empowering Americans to invest in our future by investing in our youth. After more than a decade of dramatic decline in adolescent pregnancy and birth rates, the United States has unexpectedly experienced increases in 2006 and 2007. Even with the decline, our Nation still ranks first in adolescent pregnancy and birth rates in comparison to other industrialized countries (almost double the next highest country!). The reality is sobering: in the United States one in three girls will become pregnant before age 20, totaling more than 750,000 girls per year.
In Georgia, some advocates and service providers are having isolated success, but most are struggling for the resources, support and training necessary to have a sustainable impact. We can no longer waste time and money. Every day, more than 2,000 girls in America, age 15-19, give birth–in the wealthiest, most educated nation in the world! Neither you nor I should accept this statistic.
My response has, and will always be, that accurate and age appropriate adolescent pregnancy prevention must be a priority at the state and federal levels. There must be a systemic approach where health care providers, teachers, after-school programs, government agencies, public health officials, parents and young people are working together with a shared vision and clearly identifiable outcomes, using proven practices and curricula
Fortunately, in a speech last week marking his first 100 days in office, President Obama commented on forming a Presidential task force to investigate and provide recommendations on reducing unintended pregnancies, especially among teens. I hope his administration will utilize scientific information and fund programs that work to reduce teen pregnancies, HIV and STDs and teach young people to make healthy, responsible choices. The return on the investment will benefit us all.