The teen birth rate declined by 15 percent from 1991 to 2008 in Oklahoma, but the state still pays out millions of dollars a year because of the issue.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy released a report in June that showed taxpayers paid $190 million in 2008 because of teen childbearing in the state. That money comes from both the federal and state governments and includes money for health care, social services, increased incarceration rates and lost tax revenue.
Oklahoma has long been a state with high rates of teen pregnancy on a per capita basis, though information shows the rate is declining. Still, the amount of taxpayer money spent on teen childbearing is staggering and needs to be addressed. Overall, the United States spent $10.9 billion on teen childbearing in 2008, according to the organization.
In a press release, Sharon Rodine, who is the Youth Initiatives Director at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, said this about the report:
“Oklahoma has no teen pregnancy prevention plan. Other states have a clear plan built upon public and private partnerships and effective strategies that produce results. Soon, other states will be saying, “Thank goodness for Oklahoma“– meaning, they can count on us to be at the bottom of the rankings. This is not where we want to be.”
Rodine makes a good point, and the state should commit to a plan.
A major part of the issue here has always been the state’s Bible-Belt mentality that inhibits extensive sex education, including information about pregnancy prevention, in schools and other institutions. Some on the religious right here believe such programs encourage sexual activity and that only abstinence should be discussed. There are at least 190 million reasons that approach doesn’t work.