Teen pregnancy rate increases after decade-long decline

Image of shirt that reads: Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder
Thanks abstinence only education!

A new report from the Guttmacher Institute shows that the teen pregnancy rate has risen for the first time in more than a decade. And guess who’s to blame…

These new data from the Guttmacher Institute are especially noteworthy because they provide the first documentation of what experts have suspected for several years, based on trends in teens’ contraceptive use–that the overall teen pregnancy rate would increase in the mid-2000s following steep declines in the 1990s and a subsequent plateau in the early 2000s. The significant drop in teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s was overwhelmingly the result of more and better use of contraceptives among sexually active teens. However, this decline started to stall out in the early 2000s, at the same time that sex education programs aimed exclusively at promoting abstinence–and prohibited by law from discussing the benefits of contraception–became increasingly widespread and teens’ use of contraceptives declined.

Heather Boonstra, Guttmacher Institute senior public policy associate, calls the reversal “deeply troubling.”

“It coincides with an increase in rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which received major funding boosts under the Bush administration….Fortunately, the heyday of this failed experiment has come to an end with the enactment of a new teen pregnancy prevention initiative that ensures that programs will be age-appropriate, medically accurate and, most importantly, based on research demonstrating their effectiveness.”

I’m a bit less optimistic than Boonstra – because while we have made inroads in terms of limiting funding for abstinence-only education, we still have a cultural battle ahead of us.

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