U.S. teen pregnancies reaching record-low levels
As comprehensive sex education ramps up and the economy continues to sputter, more women are choosing not to get pregnant in their teens, sending the U.S. teen birth rate to low levels not seen in 70 years.
New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that fewer U.S. teenage girls are becoming mothers.
The birth rate for American teenagers ages 15 to 19 has fallen 6 percent, to the the lowest level in 70 years, basically since record-keeping began.
Tessa Walsh became a teen mom 21 years ago, but her daughter, Eeliyana Paraiso is on a different path. She's a nursing student at Lane Community College.
"I hope kids are getting more aware of sex education and the difficulties of raising kids on their own, and choosing to go to college and better their selves and their careers before they choose to have children," Walsh said.
Paraiso said that the difficult economic times have made it even more apparent why it's important that people further their education. She thinks that's played a role in fewer teen pregnancies as well.
Debra Hauser, executive vice president of Advocates for Youth, said there are a number of factors in reduced teen birth rate. Among them: the economic downturn.
"Historically, when the economy is poor, women make a decision often to delay child-bearing and get an education so they can make more money and support their children," Hauser said.
The birth rate is actually down not just among teens, but among all age groups, Hauser said.
Another factor, Hauser said, is public sex education that is based less on ideology and more on science and health. Specifically, she said, that means fewer abstinence-only programs and more comprehensive programs that include information about birth control.
"During much of the Clinton administration and all of the Bush administration, we spent $1.5 billion on abstinence-only sex education," Hauser said. "We know these programs don't work. There's good evidence. There was a Congressionally-mandated study that shows these programs don't work. Consequently, when the Obama administration came in, the policy was changed."
Now, about $200 million a year is spent federally to fund "evidence-based" sex education, Hauser said.
"Young people are getting information about relationships, good communication. They're getting information about abstinence and they're also getting information about contraception and condoms.
"Consequently, we see more young people are waiting to have sex."
Paraiso said she felt like her classmates all received comprehensive sex education that focused on information and encouraged them to make responsible choices.
Walsh said she was honest and open with her daughter about sexuality.
"I bought her a bag full of condoms in 7th or 8th grade and said, 'Here you go. I don't think you're doing this, but your friends might be. So pass them out to everybody,' " Walsh said.
Walsh said she believes that kids are going to have sex whether parents discuss sexuality with them or not.
"Better to be informed and prepared for the decisions they're going to make," she said.
Hauser said parents are crucial in effective sex education. There's very good research that says when you provide young people with information about sexuality and discuss contraception and condoms before they become sexually active, they're much more likely to use them when they become sexually active, Hauser said.
"There's a myth in the country we have to break, that if you provide information to young people, it causes them to have sex," Hauser said. "That's like saying umbrellas cause rain."
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