In a story that sounds ripped from the Lifetime Movie Network, some 90 students at Frayser Middle/High School in Memphis have either given birth this school year or are currently pregnant. The school, which is located in the predominately African-American Shelby County, receives Title 1 federal funding, as nearly 100% of the student body comes from low-income families. As such, the high number of young mothers is a cause for major concern.
According to AOL BV Spin, educators and researchers commissioned by the Memphis City Schools have developed “No Baby!”, a multimedia advertising campaign designed to encourage teens to take all steps to avoid pregnancy. The initiative will launch at Frayser and eventually expand to other schools in Memphis, where the teen pregnancy rate is more than double the national average. Girls Inc., an organization which has been active with young women for decades, will oversee the campaign.
WMC-TV, reports that “No Baby!” will NOT provide contraceptives and will encourage that teens practice abstinence. However, the initiative will provide information on how to use protection if one chooses to have sexual intercourse. The campaign, which has received some $250,000 in funding, will rely heavily upon social media to get its message across; ads will run on Twitter, Facebook, radio and television and appear on local billboards.
Abstinence-only programs have long since been under fire for their failure to provide supplies and information for the many teens that are determined to have sex no matter what. While “No Baby” is teaching about how to use contraceptives, by failing to make them available, it seems that there is still a level of condemnation of those kids who plan to have sexual intercourse. Do we want our teens having sex? Of course not, but history has shown us over and over again that it’s impossible to stop them. And considering how irresponsible young people can be, it seems like it would make more sense to arm them with EVERYTHING they need to protect themselves whenever possible.
Teen pregnancy rates in the United States, which had dropped in the early 1990s after nearly twenty years of steady increase, experienced a rise in 2006 for the first time in a decade. According to a 2010 study by the Guttmacher Institute, the pregnancy rate for African American girls between the ages of 15 and 19, the nationwide pregnancy rate fell by 45% between 1990 and 2005, before increasing slightly in 2006. In ten of Memphis’ zip codes, no less than 20 percent of teens have a baby, which is more than double the national average.
There is no question that something needs to be done in Memphis…and fast. However, will a campaign that promotes abstinence do much to sway a teen population that has become so comfortable with not just sex, but parenthood? The campaign will focus on girls, but it definitely takes two to make a child. Why are boys being left out of the equation?
Do you think that “No Baby” would be more effective if contraception was made available to teens? Sound off!