Teen pregnancy rates decrease nationwide, increase in Amarillo area

Potter and Randall County teen pregnancy rates have gone up from 2008 despite the decreasing trend seen across the United States.

According to the latest numbers from 2009, there were 157 Potter County girls between the ages of 13 and 17 who got pregnant. Of those teenagers, 151 had their babies. About 18 percent of the mothers were white, 16 percent were black and 65 percent were Hispanic. The other six mothers did not have their babies due to miscarriages, abortions or other health problems.

Members of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition said those numbers are high.

"We're not the highest in the state when you look at rate, but we are higher than comparable-sized towns- Abilene, Wichita Falls, San Angelo," Don Nicholson stated. "We're higher than the state average for sure and we're higher than the national average, again, for sure."

Nicholson pointed out there is not a specific reason why Potter County's numbers are much higher than those of Randall County, which had only 59 pregnant teens in 2009. Socioeconomics, culture, race and ethnical barriers play a big part in teen pregnancy and how that pregnancy is handled. Despite these obstacles, coalition members keep the preventative focus on the parents.

"All along, parents have been the most important factor in preventing teen pregnancy," Myrna Raffkind said. "Parents, be parents- don't be friends, be parents. Set guidelines, know where you children are."

Reality TV is also being considered a preventative factor by some. Shows like "16 and Pregnant" and "Teen Mom" let young people in on the not-so-glamorous side of teen pregnancy, and Nicholson said that can result in emotional responses from viewers.

"This is somebody that's their age that's facing some of the same problems and situations they do on a day-to-day basis. So in that case, yes, the reality shows, I think, do have an impact. How much? We're not exactly sure. We'd like to know because if it was, maybe we could show other things like teen drinking, you know, the smoking situation."

The report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that even though teen pregnancy rates are down among all ethnicities across the United States, the state of Texas ranks fourth in the nation with 52.2 of every 1,000 teen girls getting pregnant. Arkansas is ranked third with 52.5, New Mexico is second with 52.9 and Mississippi is ranked first with 55.