1. Health
Dawn Stacey M.Ed, LMHC

Teen Pregnancy Rate Rises for First Time in 14 Years - Who is to Blame?

By December 6, 2007

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It has finally happened - the dramatic decrease in US teen pregnancy rates has come to an end. According to a report released yesterday by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): for the first time in 14 years, the number of teenagers having babies in the United States rose last year, and unmarried childbearing rose significantly as well.

Stephanie Ventura, head of the Reproductive Statistics Branch at CDC, commented that, "It’s way too early to know if this is the start of a new trend, but given the long-term progress we’ve witnessed, this change is notable." Additionally, Ventura admits that, “the finding on teen pregnancy was a surprise… Even though the rate of decline had slowed down, we didn't expect an increase. This will be a jolt to groups involved in teen pregnancy prevention.”

The report reveals that between 2005 and 2006, the birth rate for teenagers 15-19 years rose 3%. This follows a 14-year downward trend in which the teen pregnancy rate fell by 34% from its all-time peak in 1991. The report also notes:

  • The largest increases were reported for non-Hispanic black teens, whose overall rate rose 5% in 2006

  • The birth rate for older teens (18-19 years of age) is now more than three times higher than the rate for teens aged 15-17. In 2006, the birth rate rose 3% for teens aged 15-17 and 4% for teens aged 18-19.

  • Childbearing by unmarried women rose substantially in 2006, reaching record high levels (showing a 20% increase from 2002 data). The largest increase, 10%, was among unmarried women 25 to 29.

  • The total fertility rate (an estimate of the average number of births that a group of women would have over their lifetimes) increased 2% in 2006: 2,101 births per 1,000 women. This is the highest rate since 1971, and the first time since then that the rate was above replacement (the level at which a given generation can replace itself).
Although the findings in this report came as somewhat of a shock to the CDC, given that research has consistently shown that abstinence-only sex programs don’t work and that declining pregnancy rates correlate with more effective contraceptive use. So, really, this report should not be that much of a shock, and only continues to prove that teen pregnancy will not be prevented by leaving birth control information out of sexual education.

Dr. Douglas Kirby, a leading researcher in adolescent health, released a study confirming (once again) that the federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs just DO NOT work. Dr. Kirby investigated both abstinence-only and comprehensive sexual education programs. The only programs that resulted in delayed sexual initiation were comprehensive sex ed programs (those that discuss both abstinence and contraception). The study also clearly states “there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence, or reduces the number of sexual partners.”

It is time for the Bush Administration to take some accountability for its role in this teen pregnancy crisis. As a taxpayer, I feel compelled to question why my money has, literally, been wasted by the 1.5 billion dollar investment that government has spent over the last decade on abstinence-only programs. These programs prohibit any discussion or information about the use of contraception. Obviously, this is NOT the answer. I guess we now have to “thank” George W. Bush (and the Congress members who have voted and supported his failed agenda) for prohibiting government funding that has NOW resulted in not only a 50% higher increase in newly infected HIV cases, but an increase in teen pregnancy as well. Good work George.

I would love to hear what you all think! Please vote in my "Where Do You Stand?" Poll below - you can select more than one answer. Also, feel free to Post A Comment.

Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Ventura SJ. (2007). Births: Preliminary data for 2006. National vital statistics reports; vol 56 no 7. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2007.

Kirby, D. (2007). Emerging Answers 2007: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Teen Pregnancy Photo Courtesy of Geoff Manasse/Getty Images

March 7, 2008 at 11:24 am
(1) Linda says:

Abstinence sadly enough is not very realistic in today’s world. More teen are having sex and if they would only take it seriously they could prevent pregnancy. I’ve started believing that birth control is 100% affective. It’s those select few that don’t use it properly that cause it to be 99.0%. I’ve had friends complain that the birth control failed them only to later find out, they forgot to take the pill one day or their patch came off, or they let there boyfriend go with out the condom. If it were safe and possible the only way to prevent pregnancy would be to give a teen couple a child for a week let them care for the child day and night. They would be more likely to MAKE sure to use contraceptives.

March 11, 2008 at 1:33 pm
(2) Lizzie says:

The United States now has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the Western World! This is so shocking to me! We have all the resources and knowledge we need to educate our youth about the dangers of sex at such a young age, the question is why we aren’t? As a country we need to stop the raging cycle! Being in high school, many of my peers are sexually active and don’t see it as a big deal at all. Teens aren’t informed about the dangers and consequences. I cannot imagine being responsible for another life at this age, when really I’m not even responsible for myself at times. Great Post! I loved how you brought in statistics to make your point. Check out my blog: http://lizziew.learnerblogs.org/

July 6, 2008 at 5:04 pm
(3) Mandy says:

I think that it would be sad to peg all the blame on President Bush for the rise in teen pregnancy. Instead, we should be looking at the role models that teens look up to, people like Britney Spears and Nicole Richie. Or what about Angelina Jolie? Her and Brad Pitt aren’t married and they have how many children?? I’ve lost count…
Why doesn’t this article address the influence that media has on the younger generations? What about the rise of unmarried, live-together couples who decide to have children out of wedlock? I would be most certain that a pretty good percentage of the 25-29 year old women having children are probably (hopefully?) in committed relationships. Though I personally still think that marriage is the best place for sex AND having children, I think that this article misses quite a few facts and instead pushes a political agenda.

However, I do agree that abstinence education is b.s. and doesn’t work… but it can’t be the only thing to blame for teens getting pregnant today. Where are these girls parents???

January 18, 2009 at 4:00 pm
(4) Rachel says:

Yes it is sad to say that teen pregnancy rates are on the rise. But lets think about it why do most girls have sex at this age ? I asked almost 20 girls there opinions and it basically came to the same conclusion that they wanted to feel wnted, loved and most of all accepted. I believe that if we have some type of self confidence classes for these young girls and help them build there confidience so they know that its okay to say no, people will still love them for who they are and not what they do.

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