Schools need to play a major role in preventing teen pregnancies, speakers said Thursday at a public hearing.
The approach should be multifaceted, including counseling on family planning, rather than single-minded push for abstinence, they said."Just saying no to sex is like saying `Just say no to candy,' " Tina Lopez, an unwed mother of two, told officials conducting a hearing on a report by the Governor's Task Force on Teenage Pregnancy Prevention.
There are risks in pregnancy, just as there are in eating too much sugar, Lopez said, adding that teenagers today live in the fast lane and they will take chances.
She said rather than telling teenagers, as if they were children, to just say no to sex, a better approach would be to treat teenagers as young adults and encourage them to "just think twice" about consequences of pregnancy.
Lopez, executive director of Miss Mom Inc., a non-profit organization in Moab that provides emotional support to single parents, was among five people who attended the two-hour hearing at the Grand County Court House. Three made comments.
It was the second in a series of statewide hearings on the task force's report. Because of complaints about poor advance notice and the fact that the meeting conflicted with a televised presidential candidate debate, Moab will be considered for a second hearing later, said Bryant Howe, research analyst for the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.
Those who attended had good suggestions and valid points, said Norman Angus, director of the State Department of Social Services and a task force member. He agreed with them that the only way a teenage pregnancy program is going to work is "to tie it into the school system somehow."
Angus said the task force effort was not intended to be a "how to" report.
"All we are doing is identifying factors, and these factors, if we can influence them, would impact the sexual activity and hence (reduce) teenage pregnancy," he said.
Bob Greenberg, Moab, a mental health worker and father of a teenage daughter, said he found the report "provocative" and hopes the task force will continue its efforts because he believes preventing teen pregnancies is a critical issue for the future.
He criticized the report for drawing conclusions that appear to be based on tests that were not conducted, and for confusing "wishes, hopes, and facts."
Utah law sanctions marriage with parental permission as young as age 14, "so the laws of Utah sanction teenage pregnancy," Greenberg said. The task force needs to clarify that its mission is to prevent unplanned, unwanted teenage pregnancies, he said.
Greenberg also complained that the state would cut funding for services to deal with conduct disorders, bad performance in school and sexual abuse in families, yet those factors are related to teenage pregnancy.