Though the teen pregnancy rate in the United States overall has been declining since 1990, on a state level, Utah’s teen pregnancy rate has increased, including for teens who are in college.
Utah’s teen pregnancy rate went up by 12 percent, according to a new report on the most current state-level data on pregnancy, birthrates and abortions among 15- to 19-year-olds.
Nicole Lee, the St. George community educator at Planned Parenthood, said the data results were not surprising.
“Here in St. George, sex and sex education is looked down upon like it’s something to be guilty of,” Lee said. “If young girls aren’t getting the information they need to prevent pregnancies, when they start experimenting, they’re going to increase their chances of getting pregnant.”
Aside from lack of information, Lee said some religious beliefs may inspire young girls to get pregnant early in life.
“Most of these girls have grown up in a community where their mothers had children at the age of 18 or 19, sometimes earlier,” Lee said. “Not only that, but they see their friends doing the same thing. This gives them the idea that if they get pregnant at a young age, it will be acceptable.”
Planned Parenthood, located at 595 S. Bluff St., offers a range of services concerning pregnancy, including counseling for young women who are pregnant and don’t know what to do.
“When I got pregnant, I had no idea what I was going to do,” said Jessica Johnson, a sophomore general education major from Santa Clara. “My family wasn’t willing to help, and I was afraid I was going to have to drop out of college. I was so scared. The people at Planned Parenthood helped through the pregnancy process, and they even helped me find a family to adopt the little boy I had.” Johnson got pregnant at 18.
Katie Davis, a freshman general education major from St. George, said she almost didn’t come to college, until her older brother offered her a place to stay. Now she takes online and evening classes so she can be with her daughter during the day. Davis was 17 when she got pregnant.
“It’s hard being a young mother,” Davis said. “I love my daughter very much, but I wish I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. I don’t think any girl or woman should get pregnant until they’re out of school and into a stable career.”
While many students at DSU may choose to keep the baby or give up the baby for adoption, there are other options for girls who find themselves pregnant.
“I couldn’t afford a pregnancy,” said Tiffany Walker, a junior nursing major from Salt Lake City. “I’ve got no family to help me, nor did I want to drop out of college. After considerable deliberation, I decided an abortion was my best option.”
Walker said that while people sometimes look down on her for her decision, she knows what she did was for the best. She doesn’t recommend abortion for everyone, and if someone is considering it, she warns them to think about it extensively.
“Not everyone can handle it,” Walker said. “When you’re put in that situation, you’ve got to essentially do what you think is best, no matter what your decision.”
Girls who get pregnant at a young age often don’t realize they have resources and options.
“Planned Parenthood isn’t the only place in St. George for girls to go if they find themselves in such a situation,” Lee said. “They can go to their care provider or to the Hope Pregnancy Care Center, among other places. If you do come to Planned Parenthood, we will help you with whatever you need or refer you to someone who can help you, whether it is before, during or after a pregnancy.”
Pregnancy is a big responsibility, as is having sex. Students who are considering having sex should also consider all the possible outcomes, which may include pregnancy or the transmission of various infections or diseases.
“Students really need to be careful, especially when they’re in college,” Lee said. “They need to realize what they’re doing now can affect them later in life, especially if they have a child.”
You can contact Planned Parenthood at 435-674-9933 or the Hope Pregnancy Care Center at 435-652-8343 if you have any questions regarding pregnancy.