In an unofficial phone survey of Pueblo county voters carried out in 2011 by NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Foundation, 89 percent of respondents were concerned about the number or pregnant and parenting teenagers in their community. In recognition of that data, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado is working to prioritize the prevention of unintended pregnancies as a public health priority. Every pregnancy should be a wanted pregnancy. Why? Because unintended pregnancies have long-lasting effects on the lives of the families affected. These include negative health consequences for the mother, increased health risks for children born of unintended pregnancies and long-term social and economic effects for the families involved.
Women who experience unintended pregnancies also exhibit poorer psychological well-being and higher rates of depression than women with planned pregnancies. Moreover, children borne from unintended pregnancies are more likely to have adverse physical and mental health and educational outcomes than children of planned pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies perpetuate a cycle of poverty that make it difficult for women to make positive changes in their situation and achieve economic independence. In regards to teen pregnancy in the U.S., national research also shows that more than half of women who bear children before the age of 18 fail to graduate high school. Consequently, these young women also earn less in wages than their peers who received a diploma.
The consequences of unintended pregnancies are exacerbated when examining the lower high school graduation rates among young Hispanic females who become pregnant as teens compared to the higher graduation rates of their non-Hispanic peers. In Pueblo, the number of births to young white, Hispanic women ages 18-19 was 113 while in the same age group, the number was 66 for White, non-Hispanics. On the whole, in Pueblo, between 2007 and 2009, the average birth rate was 56.5 per 1,000 among females aged 15-19 compared to a state-wide rate of 35.4 per 1,000. In fact, while national teen birth rates were on the decline, birthrates in Pueblo for teens ages 15-19 increased between 2005 and 2009. Not surprisingly, data from a Pueblo study on teen pregnancy showed only 52% of sexually active and and 47.1% of pregnant or parenting females graduated high school or obtained their GED.
The factors that account for these high rates of unintended pregnancies in Pueblo are varied. For example, the same study on teen pregnancy in Pueblo illustrated that while reproductive health services are available in Pueblo, many teens do not have access to those services and do not have the resources to obtain access. Barriers to the prevention of unintended pregnancy in Pueblo also included a lack of comprehensive education on sexuality and pregnancy prevention in school. Teens in the study stated that most of the curriculum centered around sexually transmitted disease and sexually transmitted infection prevention and awareness instead. The teens in the Pueblo study also mentioned a lack of understanding about the consequences of sexual activity and unplanned pregnancy. Hispanic teens in Pueblo also face language and cultural barriers when receiving sex-ed in schools.
Nationally, research has shown young Latinas also face negative stereotypes that send the message they are not expected to succeed and therefore not given the support they require to excel. The study on educational outcomes among Latinas in the U.S. revealed that many young women said expectations for their academic achievements were lower compared to their non-Hispanics peers.
Unintended teen pregnancy is an issue that affects the entire community, and it is one that Pueblo has in its every ability to address. The previous examples are just a few of the many different barriers Pueblo teens face in avoiding unintended pregnancies. NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Foundation applauds the Pueblo City-County Health Department for beginning a public dialogue about this issue and encourages participation from political and educational leaders, the families and teens in order to build effective community-based solutions. If we prioritize preventing unintended pregnancies a public health priority, we can make every baby a wanted child.