Friday, January 29, 2010

Teen Pregnancy

A new Guttmacher study finds that the teen pregnancy rate has turned up after many years of decline:

For the first time in more than a decade, the nation's teen pregnancy rate rose 3% in 2006, reflecting increases in teen birth and abortion rates of 4% and 1%, respectively.

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.

It is too early to tell what the small increase means, and correlation does not prove causation. Still, this is something to keep in mind when abstinence education is touted by various wingnuts.