New Mexico drops to second

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By Ralph Damiani

There was an item in the news recently that New Mexico has fallen out of first place.

Sadly, this is again one of those lists we don’t want to be on.

Mississippi now has the nation’s highest teen pregnancy rate, displacing us and Texas for that lamentable title.

Mississippi’s rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The teen pregnancy rate in Texas and New Mexico is more than 50 percent higher.

The lowest teen birth rates continue to be in New England, where three states have teen birth rates at just half the national average.

It’s not clear from the report why Mississippi surged into first place. The state’s one-year increase of nearly 1,000 teen births could be a statistical blip, Ron Cossman, a Mississippi State University researcher who focuses on children’s health statistics, told The Associated Press.

More than a year ago, a preliminary report on the 2006 data revealed that the U.S. teen birth rate had risen for the first time in about 15 years. But the new numbers provide the first state-by-state information on the increase.

The new report is based on a review of all the birth certificates in 2006. Significant increases in teen birth rates were noted in 26 states.

About 435,000 of the nation’s 4.3 million births in 2006 were to mothers ages 15 through 19. That was about 21,000 more teen births than in 2005.

Numerically, the largest increases were in the states with the largest populations. California, Texas and Florida together generated almost 30 percent of the nation’s extra teen births in 2006.

Factors for the rise include the escalating cost of some types of birth control and their unavailability in some communities, said Stephanie Birch, who directs maternal and child health programs for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Glowing media portrayals of celebrity pregnancies don’t help, either, she said.

In Mississippi, there were about 68 births for every 1,000 women, ages 15 through 19 in 2006. The New Mexico rate was 64 per 1,000; Texas was 63.

The national birth rate for females in that age group was about 42 per 1,000. New Hampshire, with a rate of 19 per 1,000, was the nation’s lowest.

A variety of factors influence teen pregnancy rates, including culture, poverty and racial demographics.

Of course the decline of families, the ever-growing entitlement attitudes and lack of national role models all add to the mess.

Oh, the work!

A proposal to restrict proxy voting by elected officials easily won approval in the House on Thursday.

The measure will prohibit voting by proxy during an open meeting of a public body unless the practice is “expressly authorized.”

Supporters say the proposal clarifies state law to ensure that elected officials must attend a meeting to cast their votes.

The bill unanimously passed the House and was sent to the Senate.

If proxy voting was allowed, elected officials could be absent from a meeting but designate another member to vote on their behalf.

So we are asking that our elected representatives acutally show up during the session when it is time to vote. Oh, how rude of us to ask such a burden of these poor men and women.

This bill should pass without even a dissenting comment.