SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 AT 8:59 AMThe U.S. teen birth rate has hit its lowest point in the entire
73 years that the government has been collecting the data,
according to a new report from the National Center for
Health Statistics. Researchers say that’s partly because more
youth are now opting to use effective forms of birth control.
In 2012, there were 29.4 births for every thousand Americans
teens between the ages of 15 and 19. That represents a six percent
drop from the year before — and fits into a larger pattern of
declining teen births across the country. The teen birth rate has
been steadily falling since 1991. At this point, there are less than
half the number of children born to teenage mothers than there were
in 1970, when the teen birth rate hit its peak.
Dr. John Santelli, a professor of population and family health
at Columbia University who was not connected to the government
study, told NBC Newsthat the 2012 figures represent “a considerable
one year drop.” But Santelli also noted that isn’t because there’s
been much change in teenagers’ sexual activity over the past decade.
There aren’t fewer adolescents having sex, and there aren’t an increased
number of abortions being performed.
“What we have seen is greater availability of much more effective
birth control methods,” Santelli explained. Particularly as more
medical professionals have been recommending
long-lasting forms of contraception to their teenage patients,
Santelli believes more adolescents have been able to take
effective steps to avoid pregnancy.
“This stunning turnaround in teen birth represents one of the
nation’s great success stories of the past two decades,
” Bill Albert, the chief program officer at the National Campaign
to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, told U.S. News & World Report.
“This report shows that significant progress can and has been made
on a very challenging social problem that many once considered both
unsolvable and inevitable.”
Although the national teen birth rate continues to set new record
lows, there are still significant regional disparities within the
United States. States in the South, which tend to
lack adequate sexual health instruction in public schools,
still have stubbornly high teen birth rates. While some states
are slowly moving away from abstinence-only education in order
to attempt to change that, conservatives still tend to
resist efforts to expand sexual health resources for teens.
Ultimately, though, teaching youth about birth control
isn’t a controversial policy. The vast majority of Americans
support expanding comprehensive sex ed — particularly after
they see the direct results. In California, for example, teen births
plunged by 60 percent after the state invested more resources
in sexual health education.