Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse January 26, 2010
The pregnancy rate among teenagers in the United States rose for the first time in 10 years, the Washington, D.C.-based Guttmacher Institute reported today.
The United States has higher rates of teenage pregnancies, births, and abortions than other other Western industrialized countries, but teen pregnancy rates had declined steeply here in the early 1990s and plateaued through the late 1990s and early 2000s. The latest numbers show that in 2006, the teen pregnancy rate went up by 3 percent, reflecting a 4 percent increase in births and a 1 percent increase in abortions.
“After more than a decade of progress, this reversal is deeply troubling,” Heather Boonstra, Guttmacher Institute senior public policy associate, said in a statement.
Why the sudden uptick? Researchers blame Bush-era laws supporting abstinence-only education. According to the report:
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.
The latest rate — 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 girls age 15 to 19 — is still lower than it was in 1990, when there were 116.9 pregnancies per 1,000. State-level data is still being compiled for 2006, but in 2005, the highest pregnancy rates were in New Mexico (93 per 1,000 girls age 15 to 19), Nevada (90), Arizona (89), Texas (88) and Mississippi (85). and the lowest rates were in New Hampshire (33), Vermont (40), Maine (48), Minnesota (47), and North Dakota (46). Massachusetts had 49 pregnancies per 1,000 15 to 19-year-old women.