Vail Valley Voices: Out of order: teen sex |

Vail Valley Voices: Out of order: teen sex

Denise Kipp
Vail, CO, Colorado

Babies: Drooling bundles of diarrhea and snot. I have lived through three of them (well, so far). I love them to death!

After falling head over heels in love with my husband, celebrating our engagement in a thousand different ways, getting married … and then what? Almost immediately everyone wants to know how soon you intend to make a baby.

The progression for most: Grow up. Get married. Make a baby. But if I were a high school student, this would be a bad idea for both mother and child.

Teen sex: Nobody wants to talk about it. Especially not with teenagers. Sex is one of those elusive subjects that gets no real attention at all.

These days, teens have opportunities to learn about sex in a digital world that most adults are hesitant to navigate. The result is a puzzling mess teenagers are left to grapple with on their own, with alarming outcomes that might shock you.

The United States has the highest teen birthrate in the industrialized world, costing the American taxpayer $10.9 billion in 2008, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Most of the costs of teen childbearing are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers, including increased costs for health care, foster care, incarceration and lost tax revenue.

Recently, Wellesley College in Maryland performed research that had been merely observations prior to its study. The researcher confirmed the link between poverty and teen pregnancy. Their findings were not shocking.

Poverty and hopelessness are the main reasons teens might decide to have a child out of wedlock. They are the main reasons they drop out of school and the economic mainstream.

“They choose nonmarital motherhood at a young age instead of investing in their own economic progress because they feel they have little chance of advancement,” the researchers report.

American teens continue to be at least twice as likely to get pregnant as teens from 20 other industrialized countries. More shocking news: Teen birthrates are more than 50 percent among African-Americans and Hispanics in the United States.

In addition, nearly three in 10 girls in the United States get pregnant at least once before the age of 20. In 2009, 6,272 females younger than 20 gave birth in Colorado. On average, 17 babies were born to teens in Colorado every day – or about one baby born every 84 minutes.

Teen pregnancy is at the root of a number of important public-health and social challenges. Teen child bearing has significant social, health and economic consequences.

These statistics are a clear indication that adolescents need to be educated about their reproductive health in order to make good decisions.

We need to provide opportunities and access to health education and services. As a community, we must continue to educate and inform our youth about the consequences of sex, providing them with comprehensive education that includes both information about safe sex and abstinence.

The 11th annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is today. To learn more about this campaign, go to the website http://www.thenational

For information and strategies on how to talk with youth about sex and sexuality, go to the following websites:;;

The Red Ribbon Project is a local organization in Eagle County that will be implementing a teen pregnancy-prevention program in our community in the fall. To learn more about it, or to get involved, call 970-827-5900 or email

Denise Kipp is the Red Ribbon Project program director.

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