ThreeSixty Journalism: Teen pregnancy on rise after 15 years of decline

THREESIXTY JOURNALISM

A baby means love.

Dora Rosales, 19, grew up thinking her mother never liked her, much less loved her. Her father died from AIDS and having no where else to go, she turned to the only source of love coming her way — her boyfriend.

Her boyfriend wanted a baby. They had sex with no contraceptives and she got pregnant. Rosales is a teen mom. The number of young women like Rosales had been on the decline since 1991, but teen pregnancy is on the rise again, and many experts are wondering why. Pregnancy in teenagers between 15-19 years rose 3 percent to 41.9 births per 1,000 females in 2006, according to a yearly report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The rates (of teen pregnancy) in Minnesota are actually quite low, as we had the seventh lowest teen birth rate in the nation in 2006,” Farris said by email. But added that “in Minnesota, our increase was almost double the national increase — our pregnancy rate among 15-19 year olds rose 6 percent from 2005 to 2006.”

Rosales attends Broadway Arts and Technology High School, a school dedicated to helping teen mothers succeed. Rebecca Rosas, 16, Diamond Glandui, 17, and Nicole Bell, 17, are three other teens who have similar stories to Rosales.

Teen dads speak out
By Teddy Woodward

Teen pregnancy is in many cases an unwanted development, but some teen fathers find that a child strengthens their character. Duane Johnson, a 15-year-old father from St. Paul, said that his child was unplanned, but that the pregnancy turned his life around.

“It slowed me down, made me stay off the streets,” he said.

Both Johnson and Andre Zerahn, a 17-year-old father, said that being fathers altered their thought process. Johnson said that before he was a father he “just wasn’t thinking … I was too busy gangbanging.”

After steadily decreasing for over a decade, teen pregnancy rates spiked in 2006 by 3.1 percentage points, the largest single year increase since 1989. Why this longstanding trend has come to a halt is a question met largely with uncertainty.

For Zerahn and Johnson, the pregnancies were unplanned and both were due mainly to a lack of consideration. Johnson said he normally used protection, but this particular time he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol and didn’t see the need. Zerahn said that his partner forgot to get her regular birth control shot.

Neither Zerahn or Johnson regret having had a child. Johnson said that it gave him something to care about other than himself. When he makes decisions now, his own interests come second.

In fact, they both look optimistically to the future. Zerahn said that in his future, he sees “a couple more kids and,” he paused tentatively, “a nice house.”

All four of these girls unanimously agreed that poor parenting was the reason for them turning to the fathers of their children for love. “My mom was never around because she worked all the time. I didn’t have anybody to talk to. When my child’s father came around, he was always there for me,” Glandui said.

“I think if my parents would have talked to me about sex I would have thought more about it. I would have waited until I was really ready,” Rosas said.

Of the four girls, only one is still in a relationship with the father of her child — Rosales. Her children’s father is currently in jail. He has never seen his second child.

The girls also all said their boyfriend’s desire to not use a condom during sex was the main reason they didn’t use that form of prevention. They also did not take birth control for many different reasons. “I didn’t take birth control because I didn’t want my parents to find out that I was taking it. But now I know there are clinics out there where you can get it without your parents knowing,” Bell said.

“I didn’t want to take birth control because I didn’t want to gain weight,” Rosales said.

Most of the girls said they did not get sexual education until after they had their children.

“I think I would have been less likely to get pregnant if I had someone to talk to me or a class to teach me about sex. I probably would have waited to have sex,” Glandui said.

Farris’ response to the teen mothers’ stories was that they were interesting, but not surprising. They “identified some very important pieces of this puzzle — that young people need correct, consistent, and comprehensive education about healthy sexuality, and they need access to contraception if they choose to become sexually active,” she said.

“While we don’t know why this happened, we can say with some confidence that we need to do something differently,” Farris said.

For Jessica Herzing, 17, who attends Robbinsdale Cooper High School in New Hope, poor parenting and seeking out love did not play a role in her becoming pregnant over the summer. “My boyfriend and I weren’t being careful together. We didn’t communicate; he thought I was still on birth control when I wasn’t anymore. We made a lot of mistakes, and now we have to be responsible and make up for it,” Herzing said.

Herzing’s parents were shocked but supportive when they found out about her pending pregnancy. “They didn’t get angry because anger was pointless. No matter how much they yelled the result would still be the same. They supported me,” Herzing said.

Herzing is still actively involved in school. She knows raising her child will be hard but has set high goals for herself despite all of the odds against her. “Me and my boyfriend’s number one goal is to finish school so we can get jobs that will help us take care of the baby,” Herzing said.

The girls that go to Broadway also set high goals for themselves in the future. All four girls are a part of the student council at Broadway. What they want the most with their future is to break the cycle of bad parenting.

“I know I’m going to talk to my daughter about sex because I feel like talking to your kids about it could really prevent them from having sex and getting pregnant,” Glandui said.

“I think this new generation of babies coming out is going to drop the rates of pregnancy because these babies are coming from people who didn’t have a loving foundation or have parents that care. I don’t think there’s one mother in this school who’s not unconditionally in love with their baby,” Rosales said.

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