COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A state lawmaker used a derogatory term Wednesday to describe unmarried teen parents as sexually promiscuous and complained that society condones premarital sex.
"In my parents' day and age, (unmarried teen parents) were sent away, they were shunned, they were called what they are," Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Larry Liston said during a GOP legislative caucus meeting in Denver. "There was at least a sense of shame."
Liston then used the derogatory term and added, "I don't mean just the women. I mean the men, too."
Rep. Stella Garza Hicks, who was at the meeting, said Liston should apologize.
"I feel that he owes the apology somewhere, whether it's to the same group that he spoke to before or someone else," she told The Gazette of Colorado Springs.
Garza Hicks, R-Colorado Springs, said she was "disturbed" and "offended" by the word but didn't confront Liston at the time because she was so surprised to hear him use it.
Liston told The Gazette later he could have chosen his words better but believes many people feel the way he does.
He said he wanted to make the point that teens who can't afford to take care of children can have them anyway and expect the government to pay for it. He said that often traps the parents and their children in a cycle of poverty without enough education.
Lorez Meinhold of the Colorado Health Foundation said shame has been shown have little impact on values and behavior. She said state leaders should focus instead on the scarcity of programs aimed at preventing teen pregnancy.
Garza Hicks said the state needs more prevention programs through schools and community groups, but she said the public must decide whether it wants to fund them.
"Sometimes it takes just a little more information, a little more education," Garza Hicks said. "And we must not give up on them either."