Teen Birth Rate Hits Record Low in 2009, Abstinence Credited

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 21, 2010   |   8:07PM   |   Washington, DC

The teen birth rate hit record low levels in 2009 according to a new report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Among girls between the ages of 15 and 19, the birth rate fell to 39.1 births per 1,000 teens in 2009, which is the most recent year for which statistics are available. That’s the lowest level in 70 years, the Center indicates and a 6 percent decline from the 2008 level and the second year in a row that teen birth rates fell.

The numbers are also down 16 out of the last 18 years — though the question becomes one of why the rates are falling, whether the downturn in the has something to do with it or whether abstinence education or promotion of birth control and contraception is the main factor.

Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association says abstinence is the leading cause for the decline.

“These trends show that the risk avoidance message of abstinence has ‘sticking power’ for young people,” she told the Washington Post. “This latest evidence shows that teen behaviors increasingly mirror the skills they are taught in a successful abstinence education program.”

Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council told the Post the de-funding of abstinence education may cause the numbers to go up:  “With a change in policy away from abstinence education, we may expect to see a reversal of the teen pregnancy birth rate in the years to come.”

But James Wagoner of Advocates for Youth, which promotes birth control and contraception, says he thinks they played a big role.

“We certainly don’t want recession to be the most effective form of birth control in the U.S.,” he told the newspaper. “We still need structural reforms in sex education, contraceptive access and pragmatic public policies to ensure a long-term decline in the teen birth rate–during good economic times as well as bad.”

Looking at the numbers further, the general birth rate for all women fell from 68.6 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 44 in 2008 to 66.7 in 2009. The total number of births fell from 4,247,694 to 4,131,019 and it appears to be continuing into 2010. Birth rates for women in their early 20s fell seven percent in 2009, they fell for women in their late 20s and 30s, but older women continued to give birth at higher rates — pushing what may be a trend caused by Hollywood celebrities opting to have children at an older age.

The other key question when analyzing birth rate data is whether abortion played a role. A drop in teen births is important on many socioeconomic levels but not if it was caused by an increase in teens having abortions.

The National Center for Health Statistics did not compile nor release any abortion information, but the last national report was issued by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute in January 2008 and it showed abortion levels reaching historic lows in terms of the abortion rates.

If those numbers remain the case today, then teens and women in their 20s and 30s are opting for abortion less frequently when pregnant than they were in prior years — something pro-life groups will quickly celebrate.