What Actually Works? | Sojourners

What Actually Works?

Shirley Bogard was an impressive teenager in the Kentucky Baptist church where I was pastor. The church awarded her its scholarship for the most deserving teenager so she could train as a nurse. She was a devoted Christian, and she became a super-competent nurse.

Shirley, now Shirley Martin, became the nurse in Louisville and Jefferson County’s Teenage Parent Program (TAPP)—a middle school and high school for pregnant students. She hired my wife, Dot, who is also a nurse, to work with her, teaching the teenagers prenatal nutrition, healthy child-raising, and how not to get pregnant again. They worked in the ob/gyn clinic held in the school two days a week: The girls got regular medical examinations, without having to leave school and their studies.

A University of Louisville School of Medicine study reported that, surprisingly, unlike typical teenage mothers, TAPP’s teenagers produced healthy babies averaging normal birth weight. Premature babies are highly expensive when they require intensive care and are more likely to have learning problems and medical problems later in life. TAPP prevented that. It was enormously cost-effective.

And 99 percent of these girls chose not to have an abortion. By contrast, the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report for 1998—the year of the Louisville study—concludes that 75 percent of pregnant teenagers younger than 15 years old, and 39.1 percent of teenagers 15 to 19 years old, terminated their pregnancies with abortions. The abortion ratio in TAPP, with girls 12 years old and up, was a remarkably low 1 percent. TAPP gave pregnant teenagers a way to continue school while taking care of their babies, and while building an economically viable future. The clear result was that they chose not to have abortions.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2009
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