Updated: Tuesday, 26 Oct 2010, 9:30 PM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 26 Oct 2010, 8:02 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) -
Every ten minutes a teenage girl in Texas gets pregnant. Teen pregnancy costs taxpayers in the state one billion dollars a year. Those estimates come from a newly formed nonprofit to prevent teen pregnancy. The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy held its first-ever conference at the state capitol Tuesday. Lawmakers, social workers, educators and advocates for preventing teen pregnancy gathered for the conference. They said teen pregnancy is a growing healthcare concern that must get more attention.
Lauren Dickson dreamed of becoming a cosmetologist--but 6 months ago, after just turning 19, she got pregnant.
"I had some plans with school that I'm having to cut short a little bit," said Dickson.
Dickson now prepares for the birth of her baby and searches for a career that will support them both.
"It's definitely growing up really fast. I graduated over a year and a half ago and I kind of thought I knew what I wanted to do but I knew I had time. Now, I really don't," said Dickson.
The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is trying to raise awareness about the issue.
"People refuse to address this as a public health problem, this is really what we would call--it's almost like a social emergency," said David Wiley, Texas State University professor and Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Chairman.
According to the campaign, Texas has the third highest teen birth rate in the country, the highest repeat teen birth rate in the US and three in 10 girls in Texas get pregnant at least once by age 18.
"85 percent of these teens will end up spending some or all of their lives on some type of public assistance, it's the leading cause of high school drop out, there's a huge connection between, especially male sons of teen moms ending up in the Texas prison system," said Wiley.
"The most important thing to understand about preventing teen pregnancy is that it's a means to an end. What's the end, the end is better educational attainment, less poverty, a stronger Texas workforce, economically competitive because people have not started their families too soon," said Sarah Brown, President of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned pregnancy.
Campaign organizers say teens need education about abstinence and birth control and say adults must work together to send a clear message to teens why they should not have children so young.
"Education is the task of adolescence not being a young parent," said Brown.
Dickson has big dreams and high hopes--but knows reaching them will be tougher.
"It's a hard, it's a hard road," she said.
According to the campaign, 12 percent of all teen births nationwide are in Texas.
They hope focusing on the issue here will send a message to other states.