HOXIE, AR (KAIT) - The South is known for it's fried chicken, country music, hospitality, and now teen pregnancy! While birth rates across the U.S. have dropped in recent years, Arkansas leads much of the nation in teen births.
From Teen Mom to 16 and Pregnant, these reality shows on MTV follow the lives of pregnant teenaged girls. "They're kind of making it a fashion statement to carry a baby and it's not reality," says Hoxie High School Councilor Donna Pinkston. She says teen pregnancy has become something of the norm in today's culture.
"Every year we have a few girls, and then I have guys and girls both that come and tell me it could be a possibility," she says.
Pinkston says teen pregnancy is high in Northeast Arkansas. The biggest problem is lack of information, and parents not talking to their children about options. "When we tried to initiate a program, a few of our parents didn't like it. I call it the ostrich approach to receiving information and you can't just stick your head in the sand. I wish parents would just be honest with their kids," says Pinkston.
"Arkansas is in the top seven for pregnancy rates, with the highest pregnancy rates in the U.S. So it's a huge deal here," say Nikki West, who is a case manager for Paces, Incorporated. Paces, Inc. is an organization offering help to pregnant teens.
Medical News Today reported teen birth rates vary by region and says numbers are higher in the Southern states, with Arkansas at the highest at nearly 62 per 1,000 teens.
"Sex ed. Especially in the South is all abstinence-based primarily. I just read a report by the CDC that says 53.6% of all Arkansas high school students report that they have had sexual intercourse. So, obviously abstinence-based education doesn't working," West explains.
She says research has shown, the states with the lower pregnancy rates are initiating comprehensive evidence-based sex education in schools teaching kids about their options.
"We need to be offering something that teaches them how to protect themselves against STI's, STD's, you know unplanned pregnancy. I mean that's the only way we are going to stop it," says West.
As for Pinkston, she just encourages parents to have open communication with their teens.
"We'd like to see parents talk to their kids when their kids have a question, on their level, and not wait until they feel like they're having a physical relationship with somebody to decide to talk to them," says Pinkston.