A downturn in the number of non-martial births and birth rates reported this month by the National Center for Health Statistics offers encouraging news that some adults and adolescents have responded positively to a variety of evidence and entreaties to avoid unmarried parenthood and its avalanche of negative consequences.
The NCHS, which works with the federal Centers for Disease Control and with state departments of health, reports in its August Data Brief that births have declined 7 percent since peaking in the first decade of the century, and that the birthrate to single women has declined 14 percent in the same period.
Mississippi’s teen pregnancy rate, Gov. Phil Bryant has said, declined 15 percent between 2012 and 2013. Bryant, who has maintained since before he took office that reducing teen pregnancy is a top priority, said his administration deserves part of the credit for the positive numbers.
Bryant, and all other elected leaders who have made reducing those teen and non-marital pregnancy and birth rates, do deserve credit for placing the issue on a radar screen with the disturbing facts in full view.
The nationwide decline suggests that a wide variety of prevention programs, from abstinence -only to more explicit information about birth control methods besides abstinence, have some positive impact.
The NCHS study found that birth rates were down more for unmarried black and Hispanic women than for unmarried non-Hispanic white women. The non-martial rate for women above age 35 increased.
Births to adolescents remain a problem in Mississippi by sheer number. The Office of Adolescent Reproductive Health shows in Mississippi, at the end of 2011, 10,823 births to women and girls from below 15 through age 19.
Of the total births, 40 percent were to non-Hispanic whites and 57.6 percent to non-Hispanic blacks. The Hispanic birth total for 19 and under was almost statistically unimportant, 2 percent.
Significantly, the measures of sexual behavior for Mississippi high school students show they were more sexually active than nationwide figures, so while abstinence always works, it is far from universally practiced among teenagers in Mississippi.