Monday, March 04, 2013

Teen Pregnancy Down (In Some States)

It looks like Texas no longer leads the nation in the number of teen pregnancies (although I think it still is number one in the number of second pregnancies among teens). The state with the most teen pregnancies per capita is Texas' western neighbor, New Mexico. But New Mexico is followed closely by Mississippi, Texas, Nevada, Arkansas, and Arizona.

Teen pregnancy has actually fallen in the United States as a whole, but the states listed above have not helped the national average. Why is this? Because these states either don't mandate sex education programs at all, or they don't require those programs to be medically accurate. Too often, if programs are offered at all in those states, they either are just "abstinence only" programs or contain anti-contraceptive propaganda instead of medically accurate information.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the drop in teen pregnancies is almost exclusively due to increased use of contraceptives by teenagers. The rate of use of contraceptives nationally is 75%. That's the highest it's ever been, but sadly, it means that 25% of teens nationwide still don't use contraceptives when having sex. And in the states with the leading pregnancy rates, the use of contraceptives is lower (only 60.5% in New Mexico).

The truth, whether right-wing fundamentalists want to admit it or not, is that good medically accurate sex education programs do work to reduce teen pregnancies. Abstinence only programs and programs that provide anti-contraceptive propaganda instead of medically accurate information just lead to higher rates of teen pregnancies. It may make fundamentalists feel good to teach religion instead of contraception, but it just puts teens in danger of unwanted pregnancies (and sexually-transmitted diseases).

Note -- The above maps are from Think Progress.

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