CORRECTION: Teen abortion rates have actually fallen to record lows.
In a new report, the CDC has released figures showing that the U.S. teen (ages 15-19) birth rate has dropped to an all-time low. In the release, the CDC claimed that this drop is due to a combination of “strong pregnancy prevention messages…as well as an increase in contraception use.” Also cited as a reason why birth rates declined was the economic recession, similar to the Pew Foundation’s findings earlier this year which cited the recession as a cause for a lower birth rate for women overall.
Today, pro-contraception sex education advocates were quick to claim these CDC figures were proof that contraception based sex education is working. However, while the birth rate has fallen, it must be made clear that the CDC is looking at the birth rate and not the pregnancy rate in teens. Alarmingly, as the birthrate has fallen in teens ages 15-19 (from 41.5 per 1,000 in 2008 to 34.3 per 1,000 in 2010), the abortion rate has increased (from 17.8 per 1,000 in 2008 to 19 per 1,000 in 2010).
Also, while is CDC is touting contraception as a major factor in the low birth rate among teens, it cannot be stated enough that 50% of women who are using some form of contraception find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. Not only is contraception not an effective means of preventing pregnancy 100% of the time, but the steady teen STD rates from 2008 to 2010 show that 1 out of 4 teen girls are still contracting STDs. If contraception and contraception sex education was the key to lower birth rates, then one would assume that the rates of both STD and pregnancies occurring during contraception use would decline as well.
Research published in March revealed more evidence that a abstinence based sex education programs are effective in delaying onset of sexual activity in teens. Four major conclusions are drawn from the article, entitled, Impact of the Choosing the Best Program in Communities Committed to Abstinence Education. This study was the 23rd peer-reviewed study showing that abstinence based sex educations programs have a positive impact.
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Most importantly, we cannot the measure the usage of abortion-causing emergency contraception (Plan B) and the role it is now playing in decreasing teen birth rates. Since Plan B was first allowed to be sold over the counter in the summer of 2006 to women aged 17 on up, the use in the United States has doubled among women ages 15-44. In one UK study, researchers revealed that teen usage of emergency contraception more than doubled after it was made available over the counter. Unfortunately, these statistics are not available here in the U.S.
What is working then? What is really causing the decline in teen birth rates? The economy, school based contraception or abstinence based sex education, or cheap, over the counter emergency contraception? We don’t really know.
Before advocates on either side of the sex education debate, contraception or abstinence, jump to conclusions, we need to make sure we get all of the facts. We are missing some data here.