Opportunity—Providing the Power to Plan a Pregnancy
January 09, 2017
Monique Rizer leads Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan, national campaign, which is comprised of more than 350 cross-sector organizations working together to expand economic mobility and close the opportunity gap in America. Opportunity Nation’s mission is to restore the promise of the American Dream by ensuring that all Americans have the opportunity to thrive, particularly the nation’s young people just starting out in life.
My mom had me when she was 19—and with a high school diploma—made her way into the world. She wanted to go to college but that was impossible with the resources she had (and didn’t have) and with the pressure to go to work to provide for me. By the time I graduated high school, life had become so difficult that our entire family of eight moved into a travel trailer. And then I became pregnant. I was 20 years old.
Having a child is a life changing moment for anyone and particularly for young people. The impacts on education and career can be profound, as I learned as a young parent. This is why The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (The National Campaign) is part of the Opportunity Nation Coalition to expand opportunity and ensure young people get the right start in life.
We know that strengthening and investing in families is critical to combatting generational poverty and that’s why we included recommendations in our policy plan “Our Opportunity Nation,” which is signed by more than 125 of our Coalition members. There is no single solution to breaking the cycle of poverty, but by providing comprehensive services and conditions that support families in any form, we can increase the chances of parents raising children who will succeed in education, career, and life.
We also understand that if we can empower people, especially women, with information and tools to wait until they want to become parents, it will offer both an economic return on investment and can improve opportunity for the generations that follow.
It is important to scale effective approaches and continue to invest in innovation that best meet the needs of disconnected youth. Where to start?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review offers a list with a wide range of effective program models for states and communities so they can choose one that fits their circumstances and population. With funding from the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and Personal Responsibility Education Program, communities are replicating proven approaches and continuing to innovate. Others can also use this list as a guide for investing in what works. For example, a growing number of programs and initiatives, such as AIM 4 Teen Moms, have demonstrated success in reducing unplanned pregnancy through information and education, as well as through access to effective family planning.
When I had my son at 20, I knew I wanted something different. I had to make life better for him. So I applied and was selected as one of 20 students to launch the first class of The Gates Millennium Scholars Program. The scholarship allowed me to continue school and afford to send my son to a great preschool. I went on to complete graduate school, leading me down a path to greater opportunity for both myself and for my, now, two sons, both of whom are thriving.
Let’s work together to ensure all young people have a chance to pursue their education and career goals by standing with The National Campaign’s commitment to giving all women and girls the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant through information, access, and opportunity.
Learn more about this organization and others working to expand opportunity through our plan, Our Opportunity Nation.