A new and disturbing trend in American teens' reproductive outcomes has been revealed this week with the publication of a Guttmacher Institute report. Researchers found that in 2006 the teen birth rate increased 4%, the teen pregnancy rate rose 3%, and the teen abortion rate went up 1%. Preliminary data for 2007 show the pregnancy rate increasing again.
The teen pregnancy rate in the United States peaked in 1990 at 12%, and has been dropping consistently every year since (although higher than in 2005, the 2006 rate was still only 7.15%, at 750,000 total teen pregnancies).
The biggest jump in teen pregnancies occurred among African American women. About 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended, with the rates being much higher for women of color. The fact that more black teens are accidentally getting pregnant shows that we are doing an insufficient job of reaching minority/disadvantaged teens with important pregnancy prevention information and services.
Among states with available data, the pregnancy rates for white teens were highest in Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia and Mississippi--southern states that favor abstinence-only education.
Many journalists and teen pregnancy-prevention workers have come out this week condemning the sex education approach of the Bush Administration. You'll find many of their articles linked on our website. Indeed, the rate of teen pregnancy decline slowed and then reversed during the Bush Administration. Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said “This new study makes it crystal clear that abstinence-only sex education for teenagers does not work.”
The federal government spent over $1.5 billion on abstinence-only sex education programs in the last decade. Studies have found that abstinence-only programs do not delay the age at which teens first have sex. Instead, students of "ab-only" programs are less likely to use contraception when they do become sexually active, due to the lies they've been fed about inflated failure rates, and lack of knowledge about where and how to obtain contraceptive methods. This quote from the Guttmacher report supports the theory that pregnancy rates are increasing due to lower rates of contraceptive use.
Recent research concluded that almost all of the decline in the pregnancy rate between 1995 and 2002 among 18-19-year-olds was attributable to increased contraceptive use. Among women aged 15–17, about one-quarter of the decline during the same period was attributable to reduced sexual activity and three-quarters to increased contraceptive use.The Obama Administration has ended funding for abstinence-only programs and is currently launching a $110 million pregnancy prevention initiative, which will only fund programs that have been proven effective at reducing teen pregnancy.
This country gave abstinence-only programs a fair shot and they failed. It's time to move on to something more effective. Our teens are counting on the adults in their lives to educate them about safe sex. The only way to do that is with objective, medically-accurate information.