Teen pregnancy

Colorado Offers Long-Term Birth Control, Sees Abortions Plummet

flocu / Shutterstock / RNS
An IUD. Photo via flocu / Shutterstock / RNS

A much-heralded Colorado effort credited with significantly reducing teen pregnancy and abortion rates is searching for new funding after GOP lawmakers declined to provide taxpayer dollars to keep it going.

Started in 2009 with an anonymous private grant, the state-run Colorado Family Planning Initiative gave free or reduced-price IUDs or implantable birth control to more than 30,000 women. During that period, births to teen mothers dropped by 40 percent and abortions dropped 35 percent, the state said. Armed with a national award for excellence, state health officials asked lawmakers this spring to provide $5 million to keep it going but were rebuffed.

Abortion Rates Declining Nationwide

Image via Steve Allen/shutterstock.com
Image via Steve Allen/shutterstock.com

The number of abortions nationwide has declined by about 12 percent in the last 5 years, according to the Associated Press. States with the strongest restrictions to abortion access and states with the least show a similar decline in rates. 

"Explanations vary," the Associated Press reports, with one factor being a decline in the teen pregnancy rate. Depending on which side of the abortion debate you lie, you can find advocates who attribute the overall decline in abortions to either better sex education and access to contracepton — or advanced technology and a new generation of women for whom there is "an increased awareness of the humanity of the baby before it is born."

From the AP: 

"Abortion-rights advocates attribute it to expanded access to effective contraceptives and a drop in unintended pregnancies. Some foes of abortion say there has been a shift in societal attitudes, with more women choosing to carry their pregnancies to term.

Several of the states that have been most aggressive in passing anti-abortion laws — including Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma — have seen their abortion numbers drop by more than 15 percent since 2010. But more liberal states such as New York, Washington and Oregon also had declines of that magnitude, even as they maintained unrestricted access to abortion."

Public Religion Research Institute, a public opinion research group in Washington, D.C., has created an interactive atlas of American values and hot-button social issues. See where your state lands on attitudes over the availability and legality of abortion here.

Need Some Good News? Teen Pregnancy Is Down

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Rate of teen pregnancy has fallen 42 percent since 1991. Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

It seems like there’s nothing but bad news all around us. Congress can’t get anything done, the Middle East is in turmoil, and climate change is making natural disasters worse around the world. But a couple of weeks ago, I went to an event in Washington, D.C., hosted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies that celebrated a major accomplishment. The teen birth rate and pregnancy rate are both down — and not just by a little bit.

The teen birth rate has plummeted by 52 percent since 1991, while the teen pregnancy rate has fallen by 42 percent. Fewer teen pregnancies mean fewer abortions, less financial strain on families, and more children being born into families that are ready to have a child.

This news came as a surprise to me, as it did to many. Seventy-four percent of adults incorrectly believe the teen pregnancy rate has increased or stayed the same. Fewer teens have gotten pregnant do to a combination of waiting to have sex until later and being more educated about the proper way to use contraception. This news doesn’t fit the current narrative that millennials and young people don’t take personal responsibility for their lives and choices.

This success is yet another example of what government, the private sector and faith community, and families can accomplish when they work together.

Those Who Already Suffer

Regarding “What Actually Works” (by Glen Stassen, June 2009): As I began reading this article, I noticed that it was all in the past tense. My worst fear was true: Funding for his special Teenage Parent Program (TAPP), helping young pregnant girls, had been reduced. The reason was lack of political will.

Why is it in our wealthy society we just don’t have the will to provide money for programs such as TAPP? In the news just yesterday, California—due to budget problems—cut programs for poor children and their families. The first to suffer in these situations are the ones who are suffering the most already.

My favorite—yet most challenging to follow—verse is Matthew 25:31-46. I expect to be called to task for what I—we—did not do for the least of our brethren.

Gerard Burford, Indianapolis, Indiana

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Sojourners Magazine August 2009
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What Actually Works?

Shirley Bogard was an impressive teenager in the Kentucky Baptist church where I was pastor. The church awarded her its scholarship for the most deserving teenager so she could train as a nurse. She was a devoted Christian, and she became a super-competent nurse.

Shirley, now Shirley Martin, became the nurse in Louisville and Jefferson County’s Teenage Parent Program (TAPP)—a middle school and high school for pregnant students. She hired my wife, Dot, who is also a nurse, to work with her, teaching the teenagers prenatal nutrition, healthy child-raising, and how not to get pregnant again. They worked in the ob/gyn clinic held in the school two days a week: The girls got regular medical examinations, without having to leave school and their studies.

A University of Louisville School of Medicine study reported that, surprisingly, unlike typical teenage mothers, TAPP’s teenagers produced healthy babies averaging normal birth weight. Premature babies are highly expensive when they require intensive care and are more likely to have learning problems and medical problems later in life. TAPP prevented that. It was enormously cost-effective.

And 99 percent of these girls chose not to have an abortion. By contrast, the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report for 1998—the year of the Louisville study—concludes that 75 percent of pregnant teenagers younger than 15 years old, and 39.1 percent of teenagers 15 to 19 years old, terminated their pregnancies with abortions. The abortion ratio in TAPP, with girls 12 years old and up, was a remarkably low 1 percent. TAPP gave pregnant teenagers a way to continue school while taking care of their babies, and while building an economically viable future. The clear result was that they chose not to have abortions.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2009
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Kids and Sex

Teen pregnancy, abortion, and birth rates have declined in the United States since 1991. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy lists 10 rules for effective sex education programs.

1. Train peer leaders.

2. Longer programs are better than shorter.

3. Tailor material to age, culture, and experience.

4. Personalize information.

5. Practice sexual negotiation and saying no.

6. Teach resistance to peer pressure.

7. Give basic, accurate sexual information.

8. Develop a clear message about birth control. Repeat it.

9. Reward changes in thought and behavior.

10. Focus on reducing one or two risky behaviors.

Source: "Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy," by Douglas Kirby (2001). www.teenpregnancy.org

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2002
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Sex in the City (and the suburbs)

There is a new ad campaign hitting the national media called "Sex Has Consequences." With full-page ads in Teen People, Vibe, and The Source, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is in your face about kids having kids. Along with print ads, the campaign is urging TV shows with high teen viewer rates—Felicity, Dawson's Creek, and Seventh Heaven—to include teen pregnancy in their story lines. "Our goal is to provoke thought and discussion on sex and its consequences," said campaign director Sara Brown. The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, births, and abortions in the industrialized world.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2001
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