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February 18th, 2011 by Toni Overton

Abstinence Education Lowers Teen Births and Abortions

According to a new report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics the teen birth rate hit record low levels in 2009, the lowest level in 70 years. Among girls between the ages of 15 and 19, the birth rate fell to 39.1 births per 1,000 teens in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association says abstinence is the leading cause for the decline.   She told the Washington Post “These trends show that the risk avoidance message of abstinence has ‘sticking power’ for young people…This latest evidence shows that teen behaviors increasingly mirror the skills they are taught in a successful abstinence education program.”

A key question when analyzing birth rate data is whether abortion caused the decrease of births. A report issued by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute in January 2008 showed abortion levels reaching historic low rates. The report shows the abortion rate for women age 15-44 down to 19.4 per thousand – lowest since 1974.

When media outlets reported the decline in the number of teen births, Dr. Michael New, a political science professor and researcher on abortion at the University of Alabama, said they should have placed emphasis on abstinence education. He wrote in National Review, “This focus on the economy as the reason for the teen-birthrate decline is rather puzzling.”

The media sources analyzed the decline by saying the slow economy has caused teens to think twice before giving birth or engaging in sexual activity.

Dr. New noted that “The early 1990s recession actually coincided with a temporary increase in the teen birthrate and the economic slowdown in the early part of this decade appeared to have little impact on the teen birthrate.

“A 2006 study by John Santelli, which appeared in the American Journal of Public Heath, found that during the late 1990s reductions in the teen-pregnancy rate were caused by both reduced sexual activity among minors and greater contraceptive use among minors,” New said. “However, one of this study’s flaws is that it assumes that minors will use contraceptives as reliably as adults. Since this is not likely the case, this study likely underestimated the impact of contraceptives for the reductions in teen sexual activity.” But New says abstinence education, as usual, received little in the way of credit for reducing the numbers.

Jeanne Monahan of the Family Research Council told the Post the de-funding of abstinence education may cause the numbers to go up:   “With a change in policy away from abstinence education, we may expect to see a reversal of the teen pregnancy birth rate in the years to come.”

We need to continue to provide abstinence education to the youth of Iowa. Without federal funding our resources are temporarily limited. We expect that many friends like you will see the positive impact that abstinence education is having and will want to join our efforts by investing in the lives of our teens.

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