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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Teen pregnancy remains at an all time high in Mississippi despite decreasing rates throughout the country. Having a baby as a teenager not only affects a teen’s educational goals and finances but it can also be detrimental to their health.

According to the Center for Disease Control, birth rates for teens reached historic lows in 2010. Still, Mississippi has long had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, especially in the African American community.

Dr. Pam Lacy, with Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, says being a pregnant teen is a serious health issue.

“You have to worry about pre-term birth and you have to worry about late care because a lot times, they’ve been hiding this and they’re afraid. They don’t know how to tell their parents about it. So sometimes when they come into my office, it’s already towards the end of their pregnancy because they hid it,” says Lacy.

Last year in Lowndes County alone, 131 babies were born to mothers ranging from ages 10 to 19. The teenager legally becomes completely responsible for themselves and their child.

“The first issue is once they’re pregnant they’re considered an emancipated adult, so I’m not allowed to tell the parent on her behalf. A lot of times what I’ll do is convince her, “Well bring your parents in and lets tell them this together,” says Lacy.

More than half of Mississippi’s school districts teach Abstinence Only but some school districts across the state are adopting a new sex education program, Abstinence Plus.

“Mississippi is within the bible belt and so we believe in that adage of “Just say no”. I think it’s time that we change that because we see that it just does not work,” says Lacy.

With Abstinence Plus, students are still encouraged to remain abstinent but also taught the health risks and dangers of having unprotected sex.

Both Columbus and Lowndes County School Districts are implementing the Abstinence Plus program. In our final segment on Wednesday, we’ll talk more with teen moms from the Teen Parent Coalition.

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