Being first in something is not all that common for Mississippi. And this one is no cause for celebration.
Unfortunately, what we’re first in is the nation’s highest teen birth rate. The Mississippi rate is more than 60 percent higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Across the state last year, there were 7,310 births to teenagers (classed as ages 10 through 19) and 88 percent of those were to unwed mothers.
In Union County, there were 61 births to teenagers and 45 mothers (74 percent) were unwed. Another eight Union County pregnancies ended in abortion.
These are discouraging numbers in this modern day when birth control methods are so effective and so readily available. Condoms are available in drug stores, gas stations and many other places. Various birth control methods also are available at the county health department on Carter Avenue.
What the Mississippi numbers mean is that either teens are not getting the information they need about birth control or they are choosing, for whatever reason, to ignore it.
We’re not going to get into a debate about the abstinence-only education that is taught in Mississippi schools. We don’t think it is adequate, but that is not the point.
The point here is that for teenagers who have made the decision to be sexually active, and nationally that number has been about 50 percent for a long time, the issue is about birth control, not abstinence.
We don’t blame the schools, which are following the law.
It’s the parents’ responsibility to discuss pregnancy prevention with their sons and daughters.
The numbers suggest many of us have not been up to the task.