On paper, New Mexico has a serious teen pregnancy problem. The state has the second-highest teen birthrate in the nation, at 53 per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19. Southeast Albuquerque is more than double that, with 122. (The national average is 34.2.)
And on paper, reducing that birthrate involves clear steps: male involvement, comprehensive sex education, confidential clinic services, service learning programs, and programs that teach parents to talk to their teens about reproductive health.
It is vital New Mexico take all those steps, because in real life that high birthrate translates into a high dropout rate, which translates into low rates of employment, preventive health care and opportunities for a better life — for new parents and newborns alike.
So it is promising that the New Mexico Teen Pregnancy Coalition is hosting home health parties that provide solid information on anatomy, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and communication. It’s all part of Hablando Claro, a bilingual program developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to teach parents to talk with their teens about sex.
That honest conversation — which emphasizes abstinence as the only 100-percent no-pregnancy solution but also lays out birth control for sexually active teens — is important for New Mexico’s young men and women to hear, and sooner rather than later.
Because according to a University of New Mexico survey, nearly half of high school students and around 11 percent of middle school students in Bernalillo County say they’ve engaged in sex.
Albuquerque Public Schools is doing what it can to encourage student parents to stay in school, offering on-campus day care and even maternity leave. That’s a sad social commentary with a poor prognosis for individual advancement and collective success.
A better one is having more of these honest conversations with male and female teens as well as their parents, and providing services when necessary, before teen moms need help as they and their children face a bleak future.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.