As the mom of a teenage girl and another girlpie well on her way to becoming one, this news feels like the Fourth of July: the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy says Black teen pregnancy rates fell 51 percent between 1990 and 2009.
Campaign CEO Sarah Brown says the massive drop is due to three factors: more teens are waiting to have sex; teens are reporting fewer sexual partners, and; teens are using contraception more. “In short, the credit for this remarkable national success story goes to teens themselves,” said Brown.
Still, Brown took us adults to task for not giving our kids credit, noting that nearly half of Americans “incorrectly believe the teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. has increased over the past two decades.”
This could be because at every turn, social conservatives—from the big-mouthed-but-clueless hypocrites in Congress to the loud-mouths-out-for-ratings TV and radio talking heads to your nutty neighbor next door—shout from the rooftops that American women, women of color specifically, are nothing more than promiscuous harlots sucking the system dry to support kids we can’t afford to raise. Those same mouthpieces are the ones who cheer on cuts to the federal food stamp program, welfare and Medicaid—programs that provide a safety net to our most vulnerable: children—all while spending their every waking moment trying to dismantle sexual health and reproduction programs and obliterate our lawful rights to reproductive choice.
The very face of those attacks is young Black women—teens included. So it makes sense that Americans are deluding themselves into thinking our daughters are promiscuous, fertile hookers just one hot-and-heavy sex session away from making a gang of babies.
Give some of us parents credit, though. I’ve been vociferous in my advocacy for MyBrownBaby readers to get over the fear of talking candidly to the babies about sex in age-appropriate ways. Our award-winning “Let’s Talk About Sex” series, part of a campaign with Planned Parenthood, did wonders for giving us parents the tools to communicate with—and listen to!—our children as we help them understand their bodies, their sexuality and, yes, the responsibility that comes with planning their families and futures. A lot of you made clear that it made you uncomfortable, but that you were listening. And our kids are better for it.
So keep talking. Keep agitating. Keep on protecting our rights to plan our parenthood by keeping contraceptives available and accessible (like teen access to Plan B, for instance) and letting our leaders know that, as women, we demand they keep their hands off the laws and programs that give all of us—teens included—reproductive choice. Yup!
I invite you to check out the “Let’s Talk About Sex” series in its entirety and to share it with every parent you know. Together, we can raise children who are informed, smart and proactive about their sexual and reproductive health—the surefire way for them to make good choices for their bodies and their lives.