Mississippi and Teen Pregnancy

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

Mississippi has one of the highest percentages of babies born to teen mothers in the nation. It affects not only that teen but the newborn child's life as he or she grows up. That's why the Mississippi Department of Human Services brought hundreds of teenagers to the Capitol in Jackson.

High school students from across the state held white balloons Wednesday as a promise to abstain from sex until they are married. State officials say the decision goes a long way to shaping a teen's future.

"I have goals in my life. I've got places I want to be," said DHS deputy director Richard Berry. "This is not where I want to be in my life. I want to be going to college. I want to be making something of myself."

Unfortunately, the statistics on teen birth rate are still staggering. From the latest numbers, of the more than 7,500 births to teen mothers, 1,601 gave birth to at least their second child and 555 of the teens were fifteen years old or younger, with nine 12-year-olds giving birth.

But a rally in Jackson wasn't just about numbers. It was about teens encouraging teens to just say 'no'.

Akeela Heron and Elizabeth Holloman both choose to abstain from sex until marriage.

"I have been asked, why wait,? Why is waiting important? How do you know for sure it's best? Well, how can anyone convince me that it's not?" said Heron, a senior at Tylertown High School.

"It's the only thing I have complete control over that nobody else does, nobody else has seen, nobody else knows about," said Holloman, Miss Mississippi Teen USA. "It's the only thing, and if you think about it, do you really want to share with the world the only thing that belongs to you?"

The Mississippi Department of Human Services says abstinence is the only birth control that is 100 percent effective. And that's the only message teens need to hear.

"When you start giving them different messages and say, well maybe if you do this or you do that, all it does is confuse the issue and somehow or another they just makeup their minds what's best for them," said Cheryl Sparkman of the Division of Economic Assistance.

And that decision could affect the rest of their lives. DHS wants to continue the teens talking to teen format. It will host a "Teens Speaking Up" Summit May 17 at the Mississippi Coliseum. They will not only be talking about abstinence, but the pressures teens face every day.

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