Abstinence Unfairly Blamed
Special Report - January 28, 2010
In a new report issued earlier this week, the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute blames Abstinence-Until-Marriage (AUM) education for the small increase in teen pregnancy rates nationwide, despite the fact that AUM education has received a much smaller portion of total federal funding than contraceptive sex education (CSE). The group notes in the report, which was released January 26, that in addition to the slight increase in the teen pregnancy rate between 2005 and 2006, teen birth and abortion rates also increased slightly, following a decade-long decline that began in the 1990s.
“After more than a decade of progress, this reversal is deeply troubling,” said Heather Boonstra, senior public policy associate at Guttmacher, in a press release. “It coincides with an increase in rigid abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which received major funding boosts under the Bush administration.”
Key findings from the Guttmacher report include the following:
- Teen pregnancy rateAfter reaching its lowest point in over 30 years in 2005 (a rate of 69.5), and dropping 41 percent since peaking in 1990 (when it was 116.9), the teen pregnancy rate rose three percent between 2005 and 2006. This is the first increase in the rate in over a decade.
- Teen birth rateThe teen birth rate in 2006 was 41.9, which is 32 percent lower than the rate in 1991; however it is four percent higher than in 2005.
- Teen abortion rateIn 2006, the teen abortion rate was 19.3, which is 56 percent lower than the peak in 1988. However, the teen abortion rate has risen one percent since 2005.
- Between 1986 and 2006, the proportion of teen pregnancies ending in abortion declined from 46 percent to 32 percent of pregnancies among 15 to 19 year-olds.
While the Guttmacher report blames AUM education for the increase in teen pregnancy rates between 2005 and 2006, it predictably gives AUM education no credit for the steep decline in rates during the 1990s. “The significant drop in teen pregnancy rates in the 1990s was overwhelmingly the result of more and better use of contraceptives among sexually active teens,” the report claims. “However, this decline started to stall out in the early 2000s, at the same time that sex education programs aimed exclusively at promoting abstinenceand prohibited by law from discussing the benefits of contraceptionbecame increasingly widespread and teens’ use of contraceptives declined.” What the report fails to acknowledge is that since AUM education was implemented, teen sexual activity has also declined nationwidefrom 54.1 percent in 1991 to 47.8 percent in 2007.
In response to the Guttmacher Institute’s report, Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA), noted that the “report rings hollow, attributing 100 percent of the blame to the approach that received only 25 percent of the money.” A 2002 study by The Heritage Foundation found that for every dollar the government spent on AUM education for teens and adults, it spent $12 on programs that promote contraceptive use. The report revealed that federal and state governments spent an estimated $1.73 billion in 2002 on pregnancy and STD prevention programs that promote condoms. More than one-third of that money, or $653 million, was spent on family planning, “safe” sex and contraceptive programs for teenagers. In contrast, the government spent a total of $144.1 million on teen abstinence programs. This means that for each dollar the government spent on contraception services and programs for teens in 2002, only 22 cents was spent on abstinence.
“CSE served as the primary form of sex education for over three decades in the United States and continues to be taught in the majority of school systems nationwide,” said Jere Royall, director of community impact and counsel for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “It also continues to receive the majority of funding. And CSE is what brought us to the high abortion, pregnancy, and STD rates of the early to mid 1990s.”
Royall pointed out that following the small increases in teen pregnancy and abortion rates in North Carolina in 2005 and 2006, the rates dropped again in 2007 and 2008. Since North Carolina began to focus on AUM education, the state has seen teen pregnancy rates drop by 35.8 percent, abortion rates drop by 53.7 percent, and the rates of some of the most prevalent STDs drop by more than 50%.
“AUM education clearly works well,” added Royall, “and more resources need to be devoted to good AUM curricula and well trained AUM educators.”
For more on the importance of AUM education and its benefits, please see our July/August 2009 article, “Ten Reasons to Keep Abstinence Education in North Carolina.”
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