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Could TN be Doing More to Prevent Teen Pregnancies?

October 25, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Overall, teen pregnancies in the United States are on the decline, but Tennessee still ranks among the top ten states for higher rates, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Women's health advocates believe the differences among states indicate that comprehensive sex-education programs are producing results for states that offer them, but not so for those that emphasize abstinence-only programs.

Kayce Matthews, senior director of education and training with Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, says educating teens about sex promotes smarter choices and would reduce the teen pregnancy rate.

"Abstinence-only education is not enough. Research shows us that the more information that teens have, the more likely they are to actually delay the onset of sexual activity and/or use birth control when and if they do start having sex."

Matthews is convinced that comprehensive sex education is key, and says parents also play a vital role.

"The thing that they can do that's the most useful is just keep the lines of communication open: talk to their young people about their decisions around sex and when and if to start having sex, and about their sexual health. That is the best thing parents can do."

Matthews says the regional differences between teen pregnancy rates are startling. In several New England states, for instance, the 2008 birth rates were less than 25 per 1000 teens ages 15 to 19. In the same year, Tennessee's rate was more than double that number.

Study results are at

Randy O'Brien, Public News Service - TN