U.S. teen pregnancy rate remains highest in developed world

Teen pregnancy rates in the United States have fallen in recent years, but the country still has a higher rate than any other developed country, according to data released Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Battles over how to best prevent teen pregnancy may be to blame for the continued high rate in the United States. Abstinence-only programs are favored in some areas while education and improved access to contraception are supported in others. The most recent controversy stemmed from the federal government’s refusal in December to allow emergency contraceptive pills to be sold over-the-counter to girls age 16 and younger.

The new data, taken from a survey conducted in 19 states from 2004 to 2008, underscore the problems with access to contraception and education on how to use contraceptives effectively, the report states. Half of the teen girls age 15 to 19 who became pregnant were not using any method of birth control. Among those, 31% said they didn’t think they could get pregnant at the time.

Pregnancy occurred among 21% of the teens who said they were using a highly effective contraceptive, which the study authors said suggests inconsistent use. Almost one-quarter of the teens relied on condoms for protection. Thirteen percent said they had trouble getting birth control.


Almost one-quarter said their partners did not want them to use contraception while 22% said they didn’t mind if they got pregnant.

About 400,000 American girls age 15 to 19 give birth each year. The report appears in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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