CHICKASHA — Teen pregnancies are costly for more than just the teen mothers and their families in Oklahoma.
Between 1991 and 2010, there were 152,467 teen births in the state, which cost taxpayers $4.1 billion in health care and child welfare costs, but this was still a 30 percent decline in the teen birth rate, according to updated research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Nationally, the teen pregnancy rate has declined 44 percent since its peak in 1990, which has saved taxpayers $12 billion from 1991 to 2010, and 6 percent since 2008, according to the campaign.
"In addition to improving the well-being of children, youth and families, reducing teen pregnancy also saves taxpayer dollars," said Campaign CEO Sarah Brown. "Even though teen pregnancy and childbearing are at historic lows, the still-high public costs associated with teen childbearing remind us all that complacency should not hinder further progress and that progress should not be confused with victory."
The Women's Care Pregnancy Center in Chickasha alone saw 67 women under the age of 19 for pregnancy tests in the past year, which represented 25 percent of the tests they did that year, said Executive Director Brenda Short.
Short said Oklahoma, which ranks second in the nation for teen births behind New Mexico, had 5,233 teen births last year.
"We have a lot of teen pregnancy [in Oklahoma] and there are probably more teen pregnancies that we don't see," Short said. "They need to be told there are people available to help them."
Campaign Spokesman Bill Albert said it's important for parents to teach their children to make responsible decisions about sex.
"Encourage teens to delay sexual activity and encourage teens who are having sex to use contraception," Albert said. "Teens consistently say their parents influence their decisions about sex."