BELLY OUT: I'm chewing chips next to my 5-year-old at the lunch counter of a sandwich shop when he says, "I want to have sex with you." When I'm done choking, he assures me "that just means love."
If only sex did mean love--all the time. If only it happened at all the right times and in all the right ways and it didn't often result in disease and pregnancy.
Lots of pregnancies, especially among teens. The Kid's Count Data Book has these figures for us: Arizona has more babies born to girls 15 to 19 years old than any other state. Only the wanna-be state of Washington, D.C., beat us out. Our legislature has ignored the skyrocketing teen pregnancy data for years and did the same this year.
"It's pitiful," says Irene Jacobs of the Children's Action Alliance. "We had the opportunity and we didn't take it," she says, referring to the meltdown of Senator Ann Day's bill that would have spent $1.2 million to educate teens. Final money granted was $250,000, of which only $110,000 will go directly to communities. Toni Means, of the Office of Women's and Children's Health, says their plan is to target three to five communities with that paltry sum.
The balance of the money is to fund a media campaign. "You can't implement much of anything with $140,000," admits Means. A public relations firm will be hired to help communities get the message out. But the bulk of the funding will be used to lay groundwork to get more money, since current funding is only good through June of 1996. Most program implementation won't happen until January of next year. Means says some of the money will go toward putting out a monthly newsletter, to keep reminding legislators how much more money they need to appropriate next year.
Pregnant pause here, to say pay now or pay later. State figures show that in 1993 the government financed 74 percent of all teen deliveries. Only one in seven teen mothers had private healthcare available to them. And how about taking care of those babies once they've taken the big trip down the birth canal? They don't come out ready to go to work and pay taxes, you know.
Unfortunately, points out Jacobs, whenever the legislature gets down to dealing with teen pregnancy, the black shadow of abortion rages in the back of their minds, though this session wasn't as bad as in past years.
We're not talking about putting a huge fetus-sucking machine in the middle of the school nurse's office, gang. According to Means, Arizona's campaign will be abstinence-based like other successful education programs around the country, with the idea that you shouldn't do it, but if you do do it, do it with protection.
Publicly funded programs to educate kids. Now there's an inventive way to spend our tax dollars.
Next session, warriors, tell them to just do it.
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