The U.S. teen pregnancy rate rose by 3 percent in 2006, the first increase in a decade, according to a study by the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. Its researchers posit a link between that uptick (about 71 teen girls in 1,000 got pregnant in 2006, up from 69 the year before) and the Bush administration's push for abstinence-only education programs — a link that abstinence advocates reject, noting that only a quarter of the nation's teen sex-ed classes adopted Bush's programs. Did the president's initiative leave teens clueless on how to avoid getting pregnant? (Watch CBS's Katie Couric give her thoughts on the teen pregnancy rate)
Of course it did: The drop in teen pregnancy rates we saw in the 1990s was a direct result of "increased contraception use," says Jill Filipovic in Feministe. Then George W. Bush came to power, Congress funnelled a fortune into abstinence-only programs, and more teens got pregnant. It's a no-brainer: "Telling kids just to keep it in their pants until marriage" doesn't work, and telling them to use condoms does.
"Teen pregnancy and abortion up for the first time in a decade. Thanks, abstinence-only education!"
Delaying sex works: Research "unmistakably" proves that delaying sexual initiation is better for "the sexual health of young people than simply passing out condoms," says Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association, as quoted in The Washington Post. These findings only prove that we need to reach teenagers more effectively – the real culprits are a "lack of involved and positive role models, and the dominant [cultural] message that teen sex is expected and without consequences."
"Rise in teenage pregnancy rate spurs new debate on arresting it"
The truth is more complicated than cultural warriors think: "As fun as it is to bash the religious right with this," say the editors of The Economist, "the causal web" behind the rise in teen pregnancy rates is not so obvious. For example, "North Dakota, which hasa state-funded abstinence-only program, [boasts] one of the lowest teen pregancy rates; Arizona, which doesn't, has one of the highest. Researchers should consider other factors "ranging from health-care access (particularly among the Hispanic teenagers)" to the 'prevention fatigue' triggered by the 1990s' "safe-sex zeal."
"Growing pains, cont'd"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 10 things you need to know today: July 25, 2014
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why are so many parents being arrested?
- Why Israel can no longer let the Palestinian Authority be responsible for security in the West Bank
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
Subscribe to the Week