Teen pregnancy rates are at historic lows, but rates in Indiana are not declining as fast as the national average.
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Indiana has seen a 45 percent drop in teen pregnancy from 1991 to 2012, compared with a 52 percent drop nationally.
Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in Indiana and Kentucky, says the highest rates of unintended teen pregnancy occurred in more rural counties.
“That’s not a surprise because the two essentials to well-informed decision making around sexual activity particularly for youth is, first, education, and second, access to contraception,” she points out.
Cockrum says there is a great need to get into more schools and get to more parents to ensure everyone has access to medically accurate, age-appropriate sexual education.
According to the report, there were more than 7,300 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 who gave birth in Indiana in 2012.
Cockrum says when teens have the information they need, they make smarter decisions about sex.
“Obviously, abstinence is the best answer for our youth,” she says. “But failure to educate them about the risks and potential outcomes of becoming sexually active, it’s a mistake.”
She adds that Hoosiers need to understand the link between unintended pregnancy, poverty and the number of children who go to bed hungry at night.
“If babies are planned and there are parents present who are prepared to take responsibility for ensuring that those children’s needs are met, then we could begin to reduce the cycle of poverty here in Indiana,” she says.
Cockrum says teen pregnancy is also associated with lower education, higher infant mortality and greater reliance on public support.