Between 1991 and 2006, the United States saw a steady decrease in the teen birthrate.1 However, data released in early December by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a three percent increase between 2005 and 2006, stirring commentary from both comprehensive sexuality education advocates and abstinence-only-until-marriage supporters.2
Specifically, the new data finds that among young women ages 15–19, the teen birthrate increased from 40.5 per 1,000 women to nearly 42, totaling 20,000 additional teenage births a year. 3 The increase was highest in African-American teens and young women ages 18 and 19; only Asian women continued to decline.4
Despite the overwhelming federal funding and support they have received, members of the abstinence-only-until-marriage industry are shirking any responsibility for the increase in the teen birthrate. Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, a far right organization that supports abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, said, “So-called comprehensive sex education falsely exaggerates the protective effect of condoms and promotes unsafe behavior. The results could not be clearer—an increase in STD rates in young people, and an increase in out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancies.”5
However, a recent letter sent to congressional leadership by 10 leading public health researchers urged Congress to stop funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, warning that the programs withhold “potentially life-saving information,” and questioning the reasonableness of encouraging young people to abstain from sexual activity until they are married.6
Advocacy groups called on Congress to eliminate abstinence-only-until-marriage funding. William Smith, vice president for public policy SIECUS, said “After all of these years and more than a billion dollars poured into failed programs, what do we have to show for it? A giant step backwards. Congress needs to follow the public health evidence and end abstinence-only-until-marriage funding.”
- Brady Hamilton, et. al., “Births: Preliminary Data for 2006,” National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 56, no. 7, December 5, 2007, pp. 1-18., accessed at: <http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr56/nvsr56_07.pdf>.
- Family Research Council, “Teen Birth Rate Increase Demonstrates Need For Authentic Abstinence Education,” Press Release published 6 December 2007, accessed 22 January 2008 http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=PR07L02.
- Cheryl Wetzstein, “Hill urged to cut abstinence funding,” Washington Times, 28 November 2007, accessed 22 January 2008, < http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071128/NATION/111280039/1002>.