Tuesday, December 27, 2011

      Morning light shines through the dingy windows as Jamie Norwood, 14, of Louisville Ky., rolls out of the bed that she shares with her mother. So as not to wake her mother, she quietly pulls her honey colored hair back with a pink headband while tugging her sweatshirt self-consciously over her rounded stomach. She selects her favorite pair of pink Tinkerbell sweatpants and runs out the door to catch the bus, a pop tart clutched in one hand and prenatal vitamins in the other. Jamie’s adolescent body is blossoming prematurely into womanhood as the growing shape of Ethan Allen Norwood creates quite a splash in her middle school classroom. Lunchroom conversations now consist of the adult topics of stretch marks, due dates, and prenatal checkups. Every once in a while Jamie will show off her ever-expanding milky smooth stomach to her friends as the baby grows one-half pound a week. Jamie will love her baby even if she did not choose him. She is a 14 year-old girl who over the next few months will make the journey from middle school to motherhood. 

       “Nobody talked to me about nothing, about sex,” said Jamie. “I don’t know if it would of changed anything if I had known how to protect myself, I guess if I had known I would have probably used them.” Each year nearly one million teenagers in the U.S., of all 15-19 year old females, become pregnant costing themselves, their children and the community. Kentucky’s high teenage pregnancy rate reserved them a spot on the top 10 list of states with the most pregnant teens. Kentucky adolescent sexual health is startlingly bad as the teen birth rates are nearly 20 percent higher than the national average (49.2 per 1,000 young women ages 15-19 compared to 41.1 in the same age group). Teenage pregnancy rates made the news when they rose for the first time, reversing a 14 year decline. Many blame abstinence-only-until-marriage programs such as those in Kentucky, which is the most prevalent form of sex education in Kentucky as part of the problem. According to a report issued by the SIECUS, Kentucky uses some of the worst, fear-based abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. 

       “Gone are the days of the fairy-tales where you marry a person and live happily ever after, it’s great, it looks good in the books, but it doesn’t exist anymore,” said Roselyn Anderson, 60, of Louisville Ky. Roselyn teaches at the Teenage Parent Program, a school dedicated to preventing teenage dropout by providing resources such as daycare and transportation to help young women continue their education even after getting pregnant or when they’re parenting. “You’re thinking eighth grader? Pregnant? Mother? What in the world,” said Roselyn. Teenage pregnancy is a complex issue and even more complicated by conflicting social attitudes and behavior. Talk of sex fills the airwaves and young girls are portrayed as sex objects and sex is used to sell everything from clothes to the news. “Families are changing, now we don’t have many two parent families, we have more single mothers and fathers rearing their children,” said Roselyn. Young girls imitate their mothers and pattern their social and personal lives in a similar manner. This leads to a repeating the same mistakes and life styles and present a perpetual cycle of single parent, impoverished households. “The reason why I say these girls are in transition is because they were little girls, little teenage girls when they came in, but now they’re going to be young mothers. Life is kinda pushing them ahead. They may not have much of a choice because of the young life inside them,” said Roselyn.

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