Despite the extremity of campaigns both for and against freedom of choice, a recent study has revealed that American teenagers aren’t actually having that many abortions to begin with. In fact, the data shows that the current abortion rate is on par with pre- Roe v. Wade numbers when the procedure was illegal. Not only are teen abortions at the lowest in decades, but teenage pregnancies and births are also hitting historic lows. These low numbers are likely connected to increasing awareness of modern contraceptives brought about by improvements in sexual education programs.
The study was released by the Guttermacher Institute and covered a variety of issues related to pregnancy trends in American teenagers. It shows that whatever teenagers are doing to lower these rates, it's working. But what exactly are they doing? Apparently it’s not having less sex. The study revealed that the number of 18- to 19-year-olds who report having sex is steadily increasing. This suggests improved contraceptive use and awareness is the driving force behind this trend. “The decline in the teen pregnancy rate is great news. It appears that efforts to ensure teens can access the information and contraceptive services they need to prevent unwanted pregnancies is paying off,” Kathryn Kost, lead author of the study, explained a press release.
The falling rates of teen pregnancies, abortions, and birth exist in every state and occur among every race. Among those especially thrilled to see the falling rates area the Planned Parenthood. “Planned Parenthood is proud to provide sex education and access to services that help teens prevent unintended pregnancies, and we’re gratified that these efforts have contributed to this historic low in teen pregnancy rates,” the organization explained in a statement.
The use of comprehensive sex education in classrooms is one factor thay may have contributed to these low rates. These programs teach that abstinence is the best method to avoid STDs and pregnancy, but also informs students on condoms and contraception use. As reported by Time magazine, Denver Health and Hospital Authority’s Wyman Teen Outreach Program even implemented social media to promote their message.
Better awareness is another perceived contributing factor. According to NBC News, MTV’s Teen Mom had a big hand in bringing the issue of teen pregnancy to the public light. “ I think there was an acknowledgment of what a problem teen pregnancy was, but I also think that technology has made educating on social issues much faster and much more vivid,” Dr. Gail Saltz, an associate professor of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell School of Medicine, told NBC.
Lowering the rate of teen pregnancies is such a pressing issue because, according to information from the Department for Health and Human Services, teen mothers are less likely to finish high school, more likely to rely on public assistance, more likely to be poor as adults, and are more likely to have children with less education, poor health, and behavioral problems. Teen pregnancies also cost U.S taxpayers billions of dollars a year due to increased public assistance payments, greater expenditures for public health care, foster care, and criminal justice services.