ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — A new report by the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families revealed Arkansas has the highest rate of teen births in the United States. According to the report, Arkansas ties with the state of Mississippi.
Laura Kellams, with Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said there are two main solutions that the group supports. One calls for state-mandated comprehensive sex education.
“We want to make sure that young people understand the facts of sex, the medically important facts of sex and that, and we also want to make sure they understand how contraceptives play a role,” said Kellams.
Along with education about things like contraception, Kellams wants state-wide funding for contraception access.
“We would love to see the state invest in more access to long-acting, reversible contraception, which is the most effective kind of contraception,” said Kellams.
Abigail DeJarnatt is the founder of a non-profit called Counteract USA. The group works closely with organizations like NWA Respect Life and Loving Choices to make sure young women have resources once they find out they’re pregnant. DeJarnatt is an advocate for sex education, but think’s the focus should be abstinence.
“I think that teaching when you have sex, there are consequences, is much more productive than saying, when you have sex there is a consequence, here are your options,” said DeJarnatt.
Meanwhile, Micah Wallace, the president of the Young Democrats of Arkansas, said the lack of abortion access in Arkansas will only make the issue of teen births even worse.
“To say that abortion is not an essential service, when it comes to lowering the rate of teen births, you’re just not paying attention,” said Wallace.
DeJarnatt strongly disagrees with that.
“Anytime that there’s a crisis pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy, as a pro-life advocate, it’s still heartbreaking, but that doesn’t change the fact that the baby inside the womb has intrinsic value and deserves the chance to live,” said DeJarnatt.
While DeJarnatt believes there are other options for young women, such as adoption and groups like “Embrace Grace” that encourage support through the community, Wallace believes it’s unfair to ask teenagers to go through a pregnancy.
“That seems like torturing someone—to force them to carry a child they don’t want, then force them to go into labor,” said Wallace.
According to the AACF report, only 22% of teens who gave birth in Arkansas reported intentional pregnancies. Another statistic shows Arkansas teens’ sexual behavior isn’t different from teens in other states.