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Nevada ranks high for repeat teen pregnancies, study says

Nevada is one of eight states where teen moms are more likely to have a second child, a report released this week shows.

Nationwide, nearly one in five births to teens, ages 15 to 19, are repeat births, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows.

The Silver State, with Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana, had a teen repeat pregnancy rate that was greater than 20 percent, the study shows. In 2010, there were 365,000 births to teens in the country and about 66,800 of them were repeat births.

Annette Magnus, public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada, said she wasn’t surprised that Nevada was among the states with the highest percentage of teen moms with more than one child. A study last month by the New York-based Guttmacher Institute ranked the state as the fourth highest in the country for its teen pregnancy rate, she added.

“We’ve seen this for a long time in the state of Nevada,” she said. “The statistics are staggering. Young people are not getting the information they need to make the right choices.”

Monique Harris, founder and executive director of Southern Nevada Children First, said the high rate in repeat pregnancies is evident in the clients her organization serves. Last year, the nonprofit served about 400 young moms and their babies, she said. About 30 percent to 35 percent of cases involved more than one child.

“If we took a preventive approach by educating them on community resources (and) increasing the resources that are available, I think that we can potentially reduce the number of multiple births,” she said.

The state needs to invest in more effective sex education, Magnus said, and schools need to offer more and better information to young people.

A bill before state lawmakers calls for just that.

Assembly Bill 230 was introduced in the Legislature last month and would revise sex education requirements. If passed, school boards for each Nevada district would have to establish a comprehensive, age-appropriate and medically accurate course of instruction in sex education.

Magnus, who has been following the bill closely, said it would require establishment of state standards on sex education.

Rep. David Bobzien, D-Reno, the bill’s primary sponsor, could not be reached for comment.

Elisa Cafferata, president and chief executive officer of Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates, the lobbying and political arm of Planned Parenthood, said current state law covers only HIV/AIDS prevention and the reproductive system. AB230 would require other topics, such as birth control and healthy relationships, to be covered in sex education courses too.

However, it would be up to each school district to decide what is age-appropriate, Cafferata said.

Counties have different rates for sexually transmitted disease, she said. In a county with a high rate of STDs, it would be appropriate to start education on the topic in middle school instead of high school, Cafferata said.

About two years ago, Magnus’ agency conducted a study that showed the way sex education is taught varied throughout the state.

“Many of the schools are doing it in different ways,” she said. “Some of them are not even teaching it at all.”

Mary Pike, director of K-12 science and health for the Clark County School District, said the district is doing its job to get students the information they need. The district’s curriculum already covers most of the material under AB230, such as contraceptives and healthy relationships, she said.

If the bill became law, one of the few changes for the district would be that people aside from teachers would be allowed to teach sex education. But doing so would require school board approval, Pike said.

“We are neutral on the bill,” she said.

AB230 had its first hearing Monday before the Assembly Education Committee. It could come back to the committee for a vote next week after revisions are made, Cafferata said.

“We have really been working with the legislators to make sure that they understand the importance of the bill,” she said.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.

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