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Problems of teen pregnancy in Mississippi

Growing up can be tough — during the teen years especially.
For many teenage girls in Mississippi, their formative years are even more difficult because they are rearing children themselves.
Mississippi has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any state, with 55 births per 1,000 teens aged 15-19.
This summer Mississippi implemented a new law requiring every school district to adopt abstinence or abstinence-plus education into its curriculum. The law was designed to address, and hopefully reduce, the number of teen pregnancies in the state.
Prior to the law, schools could completely omit sex education programs. Sadly, this law will likely have minimal effect on the pregnancy rates. Under the abstinence-only program, which the majority of districts have chosen, instructors may bring up the topic of contraceptives but must include failure rates and cannot, under any circumstances, explain how they are used or even show what they look like.
As the title suggests, the instructors may also elect to strictly discuss only abstinence with no mention of other choices.
These limitations are a response to a negative view of sex education. Many in Mississippi, lawmakers included, believe that parents should teach sex education at home.
Many cite their religion’s belief that sex outside marriage is a sin as the reason sex education should not be taught, or that only abstinence should be taught in schools.
This summer the Oxford School District had a heated debate over which program to choose, ultimately opting for the more open abstinence-plus program. The arguments that were made echoed the sentiments felt throughout the state.
While many would like for Mississippi teens to abstain, the cold, hard facts show that it is not happening, and an abstinence-only education is not effective in preventing teen pregnancies. Mississippi children raising children themselves is one of the biggest handicaps to our state.
A teen mother is much less likely to graduate high school, attend college, obtain a decent job or become financially stable.
For the sake of our children and our state, Mississippi needs to change its attitude regarding sex education and sexual health. The silence and stigma surrounding sex is hindering our state and our children from achieving their full potential.

Anna Rush is a second-year law student from Hattiesburg. She graduated from Mississippi State University in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @annakrush.