Abstinence Isn’t Working - But Contraception Is
Earlier this week, when the CDC announced a record low in the teen birth rate, it listed two possible causes: “The impact of strong pregnancy prevention messages” and “increased use of contraception.” The Guttmacher Institute came out with an even stronger message: “The most recent decline in teen births can be linked almost exclusively to improvements in teens’ contraceptive use,” the organization said in a press release, which pointed to another CDC study for evidence.
But that hasn’t stopped conservatives from claiming that the drop is a result of, you guessed it, abstinence education and, paradoxically, an increase in abortions.
Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America expressed her outrage over the CDC analysis: “They don’t even mention the fact there’s been a tremendous increase in effectiveness and pervasiveness of abstinence education. They don’t mention the fact that teen sexual activity, by their own admission, is down.” As Think Progress noted this week, teen birth rates are actually highest in states with abstinence-only policies. Not only has it been widely documented that such programs are largely ineffective, it’s also been shown that such programs may prevent contraception use.
Now, it’s true that teens — specifically 15- and 16-year-olds — are delaying sexual activity, but the change in contraceptive use over the years has been much more profound, and there has been no significant change in sexual activity among 18- and 19-year-olds.