August 21, 2012 — Although the U.S. teen pregnancy rate has declined across all races over the past few decades, the overall figure remains higher than that of every other developed country, NPR's "All Things Considered" reports.
In 2008, nearly 7% of U.S. girls ages 15 through 19 became pregnant, according to "All Things Considered." Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said last year's teen birth rate dropped by 9%, making it the largest one-year decline her organization has recorded.
Brown said the reason the U.S. pregnancy rate is higher than that of other developed countries is not because of "fewer teens having sex." Instead, she believes it is because U.S. teens are not as good as their international peers at using highly effective methods of contraception.
Challenges in Reducing Teen Pregnancy
New studies suggest that teen pregnancy spurs from a lack of economic opportunity, rather than poverty, which is commonly connected to teen motherhood, "All Things Considered" reports. However, Brown contends that both issues are factors.
"Teen pregnancy often is a continuation of a pattern in a family or in a neighborhood where a lot of young women have had babies at a young age," Brown said. She added that delaying pregnancy could provide young women with a chance to escape poverty.
Some programs, such as Mary's Center in Washington, D.C., have had success lowering teen pregnancy rates through after-school programs that provide students with college prep, tutoring and financial management education opportunities.
In Mississippi, where the pregnancy rate exceeds the national average, legislators have taken steps to address the issue by giving school districts more flexibility in sex education. According to "All Things Considered," 35 districts have said they wanted to sign up for the state's new Abstinence Plus program.
Rachel Canter, executive director of Mississippi First, which promotes the program, said a cultural shift is taking place. She noted that a poll, which "showed that 92% of public school parents in Mississippi support sex-ed in public schools," helped to change the "perception that a lot of people in politics had about whether or not parents were really supportive of this idea" ("All Things Considered," NPR, 8/19).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership