''We were asked to look at information and the facts,'' said Dr. Daniel D. Federman of Harvard Medical school, who headed a National Research Council panel on teen-age pregnancy. The facts the group found are appalling - fully justifying an aggressive birth control campaign for youngsters.
For example, more than a million American teen-agers get pregnant each year. About 400,000 of them will have abortions and a substantial number will miscarry. The 470,000 who do give birth will probably drop out of school, earn less than half than do those who become mothers in their 20's, and go on welfare. Their children are apt to have physical and development problems, and to give birth as teen-agers themselves. In 1985, those young families cost the Federal Government $16.6 billion in welfare, Medicaid and food stamps. And they pay the highest price - in lost opportunities.
Most Americans would agree that those facts add up to a national tragedy. But unlike other national tragedies - an epidemic, say - this one doesn't evoke a common response. Precocious sexuality and its consequences constitute too awkward a subject for dispassionate discourse.
The National Research Council panel therefore deserves praise for its refusal to be intimidated by controversy. ''Sexually active teen-agers, both boys and girls,'' it argues, ''need the ability to avoid pregnancy and the motivation to do so.'' Condoms, it suggests, should be widely distributed where teen-age boys congregate. New methods for distributing the pill, which it characterizes as the ''safest and most effective'' contraceptive, should be explored.
As for the argument, heard recently in New York City, that easy access to birth control provokes early sexual activity, the panel says there's no evidence for it - and endorses further trials of school-based contraceptive clinics.
Persuading youngsters to delay sexual activity would reduce adolescent pregnancy - but that's wishful. America knows little about how to effect such a delay. According to a new Planned Parenthood survey, more than half the nation's teen-agers say they've had intercourse by the age of 17. Yet only a third use birth control regularly.
The new survey also reinforces the panel's observation that teen-agers must be motivated to avoid pregnancy. ''The kids, objectively, who have the most to lose, the most at stake,'' said Michael Kagay, chief analyst, ''use birth control more.'' These, the survey found, include young people who have career aspirations, get good grades and are involved in sports or extracurricular activities.Continue reading the main story
The 2014/2015 Demographic and Health survey showed that teenage pregnancy rates in Rwanda increased from 6.1 per cent in 2010 to 7.3 per cent in 2015.
This, according to officials, is a red flag, which calls for urgent action to address the problem. It is good that the authorities acknowledge that this is a big problem, and indeed acknowledging it is the starting point to find a solution.
During the national celebrations to mark the annual World Population Day, held on Sunday, in Gatsibo District under the theme ‘Investing in teenage girls’, different officials expressed concern over the issue of teenage pregnancy.
To find a durable solution, there is need for concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including government, parents, school administrators, grassroots leaders, religious leaders, as well as the general public.
Teenage pregnancies have a negative impact on the development of the country. They expose teens to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as death as many of them, out of desperation, resort to unsafe abortion.
Stakeholders should fully empower young girls to make informed choices to determine their future, and to resist temptations and report violations wherever they occur.
But we should also empower schoolgirls with knowledge about reproductive health and ease access to sexual reproductive health services.
However, in the unfortunate event that a teen gets pregnant, society should not ridicule her, but instead offer her support. Usually the pregnant girl drops out of school, while the boy responsible (whenever that is the case) continues with his studies.
At home, the girl is also ridiculed by her family.
That only makes the problem worse for the girl and it is not the right approach to address the challenge.
Therefore, as measures are taken to prevent teen pregnancies, focus should also be put on rehabilitating the teenagers who get pregnant in form of helping them to cope and return to school after giving birth. Prevention efforts should be supplemented by a comprehensive programme for rehabilitation of teenage mothers.
Equally important is to always make sure that in case the person responsible for a teen pregnancy is an adult, necessary legal action must always be taken, particularly if the girl involved is underage.
This would send out a clear message that, as a people, we are determined to prevent teenage pregnancy.