By Lilly Scott
Walking around the halls at WHS, it appears that teen parenthood is pervading the school; from class to class new mothers and fathers flaunt their babies—flour babies that is.
The Baby Project is a long-standing tradition at WHS, and with the decline in teen pregnancy rates, it seems that projects such as this one, as well as sex education and contraception availability, has contributed to the national teen pregnancy decline.
According to thenationalcampaign.org, teen birth rates nationwide have decreased 52 percent from 1991 when the rates peaked. In fact, according to a report published by the Guttmacher Institute, teen pregnancy rates, births, abortions, miscarriages and stillbirths have dropped 15 percent in the past 2 years.
In New Jersey alone, teen birth rates have decreased 11 percent from 2001 and 60 percent from the peak year in 1991, according to thenationalcampaign.org. While New Jersey is ranked as the fifth lowest state in teen births, other states such as New Mexico and Mississippi have much higher rates of teen pregnancy.
This disparity of pregnancy rates among teens in different states in relation to their respective educational programs demonstrates how essential awareness is for teens. New Mexico and Mississippi, states with the highest teen pregnancy rates, are not required by law to formally provide students with sex education, according to ncsl.org. According tothenationalcampaign.org, New Mexico has approximately three times more teen births than New Jersey. This is likely due to the fact that its health programs concentrate on abstinence, as opposed to the sex education classes taught in New Jersey schools.
Also contributing to a decline in teen pregnancy, contraception information has become more integrated into health curricula.
According to sexetc.org, New Jersey school health programs require teaching of different types of contraceptives and other preventative methods.
Nationwide, emergency contraception is also more readily available.
Emergency contraception such as Plan B is available with no age restriction, nor does it require identification, according to planbonestep.com.
The availability of contraception in New Jersey and the awareness provided in schools are contributing factors in the state’s decline in pregnancy rates.
Despite the drop in teen pregnancy rates, however, the U.S. still has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed country, according to npr.org. With that in mind, it is important for education and awareness to continue.
While the Baby Project is arguably an unrealistic portrayal of parenthood, its purpose, along with other national education efforts, may very well be a determining factor in the significant decline in teen pregnancies.