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Funding Cuts Put TN Teen Pregnancy Prevention on Hold

Tennessee has made significant progress in preventing teenage pregnancies, but still has one of the highest teen birth rates in the country. (Janine/Flickr)
Tennessee has made significant progress in preventing teenage pregnancies, but still has one of the highest teen birth rates in the country. (Janine/Flickr)
July 19, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee's teen birth rate has declined by 59 percent in less than 30 years, but that progress is in question after the Trump administration announced it is cutting funding for teen pregnancy-prevention programs across the country. The cuts will directly affect at least three programs in Tennessee.

Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, called the announcement to end a program with a proven success rate, with no opportunity for public input, "alarming."

"It is one of the few federal government programs that is administered on the basis of what works, rather than ideology," he said. "The Office of Adolescent Health made this announcement before there was any congressional action on funding."

Tennessee still ranks in the top 10 states for the highest teen birth rates, with 6,200 births to teen mothers in 2015 alone. The high school graduation rate for teenage parents plummets to 40 percent. Teen pregnancy-prevention programs in Memphis, Morristown and Nashville will be affected by the funding cuts.

Rural communities and communities of color continue to have disproportionately higher rates of teen pregnancy. With one in 19 girls across the United States getting pregnant before their 20th birthday, Albert said, the nation continues to have a higher teen birth rate than other developed societies - and progress was being made to change that.

"We have done such an extraordinary job as a nation and bringing these rates down, that one wonders what's broken, what needs to be fixed here," he said. "Our rates in the U.S. are far out of whack with other comparable countries. Our rates remain far higher than those in, say, western Europe. "

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that that teen pregnancy and childbirth total more than $9 billion in health-care and foster-care costs in 2010, the most recent data available. According to the United Health Foundation, the Tennessee birth rate is 35 per 1,000 females, ages 15 to 19.

Tennessee data is online at thenationalcampaign.org.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN