More Teenagers Use ‘Highly Effective Contraception’

Posted on May 3, 2012

New York Times, May 3, 2012 by KJ DELL’ANTONIA

Teen pregnancy rates are at a 30-year-low (and births to teenage mothers are down as well, to 34.3 births per 1,000 girls 15 to 19 years old in 2010, the lowest rate since the government began keeping track in 1940). Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers offering one possible reason for those positive trends: more sexually experienced teenagers reported current use of highly effective contraceptive methods (intrauterine device, implant, pill, patch, ring or injectable contraceptive).

Approximately 60 percent of teenagers between 15 and 19 years old said they used the “highly effective methods” in the National Survey of Family Growth — an increase from 47 percent in 1995.

When reporting the decreased birth rates to teenagers, the Economix blog noted the variance from state to state, and many readers observed that the map bore a striking resemblance to maps reflecting different sex education practices and the availability of various family planning services. With respect to the availability and use of birth control, graphic data was a little harder to come by, but in the five states where teenagers were most likely to report the use of birth control pills when they last had sex (New Hampshire, Maine, Wisconsin, Montana and Alaska), birth rates to teenagers were around, or in three cases below, the national average.

Those states are also among the states with the least restrictions surrounding teenagers obtaining birth control without a parent’s permission. Of the five states with the highest rates of pregnancy among teenagers, three (Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi) restrict the ability of a minor to access contraceptive health care, and four (those three, plus Arkansas) stress abstinence in their sexual education programs. Conclusive? Far from it. But these numbers should give policy-makers in states with high teenage pregnancy rates something more to think about.