Teen pregnancy rate rises. Are abstinence-only programs to blame?


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Teen pregnancy rates plummeted in the 1990s, largely due to increased access to contraceptives. However, the trend stabilized in the last decade and now there’s evidence that teen births are rising again.

Data released this week from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization that conducts research on sexual and reproductive health, shows that the teen pregnancy rate rose 3% in 2006, the first increase since the late ‘80s. The institute, a pro-choice organization, says that abstinence-only sex education programs that took root during the Bush administration are to blame for the increase. They note that California’s overall teen pregnancy rate has hit an all-time low -- based on 2005 data.


‘California made tremendous strides in reducing teen pregnancy, birth and abortion,’ Elizabeth Nash, the Guttmacher Institute’s state policy expert, said in a news release. ‘This is not surprising, considering that California -- the only state that never accepted federal abstinence-only dollars -- has committed to providing teens with comprehensive sex education and access to the services they need to prevent pregnancy and protect their health.’

Nationwide, the 2006 teen pregnancy rate was 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 (about 7% of this age group became pregnant). That’s an increase from the 2005 rate of 69.5 per 1,000, which was the lowest point in 30 years. The upswing was seen in whites, blacks and Latino teens. Corresponding to the increased pregnancy rate, teen birthrates and abortion rates also rose.

California’s rate in 2005 was 75 per 1,000, a decline of 52% from the peak (157 per 1,000) in 1992. California, which has the highest numbers of teenage females, still has the highest number of teen pregnancies. The report tallies the national rates from 2006; however individual state analyses are based on a different set of data, from 2005.

The report is entitled, ‘U.S. Teenage Pregnancies, Births and Abortions: National and State Trends and Trends by Race and Ethnicity.’

-- Shari Roan