ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is vowing to push for a new state law that would give pregnant teenagers maternity leave from school.
KRQE-TV reports the group plans to support the proposal in the next legislative session this January. Under the plan, pregnant and parenting students, boys and girls, would get up to 14 days of absences a semester. Currently, students typically get up to 10 days of excused absences per semester.
Another part of the proposal would give new teen moms an additional 10 days of maternity leave.
Alexandra Smith, a staff attorney with ACLU of New Mexico, said the time would allow mothers to bond with children and recover from births.
"Pregnant and parenting students have more need to go to the doctor more than normal students," Smith said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Mexico has one of the highest birth rates for teenagers between the ages 15 to 19 in the nation. The state had teen birth rate of 53 per 1,000 female teenagers in 2010, the agency said.
The national average was 34.2 per 1,000, numbers showed.
Elisiana Montoya, 18, said she wished she had more time off after she had a baby when she was 15 years old. Because her daughter, Evelytte, was born three months early and suffered through some medical issues, Montoya said she saw her promising high school career suffer as her grades dropped.
"I was pretty much having a meltdown every single day," said Montoya, who eventually graduated from high school. "I was crying, saying that I wouldn't make it."
In Colorado, an attempt in 2008 to make maternity leave mandatory at Denver Public Schools met resistance from the national group Concerned Women for America. A group of teens was seeking changes that would allow maternity leave of four weeks before having to return to school.
But Concerned Women for America argued that extended teen maternity leave rewarded teens who get pregnant and promoted sex among teenagers.
ACLU New Mexico spokesman Micah McCoy said the ALCU of Massachusetts has suggested to school districts in that states to consider maternity leave for students but isn't pursuing a state law for changes.