Teen Birth Rate at a Record Low


The CDC released data yesterday showing that last year the birth rate in the U.S. for women aged 15 to 19 declined to a record low of 40.4 births per 1,000, down from 41.1 in 2004 (a 2% decrease). For some perspective, the rate back in 1991 was 68.1 births per 1,000 women. The decline was most pronounced among 15-17 year-olds, for whom the birth rate fell 3%, to 21.4 births per 1,000. The rate for this age group has dropped fully 45 percent since 1991.

Now, folks at the the National Abstinence Clearinghouse will laud these results as directly stemming from their abstinence-only education efforts, though there is no evidence that such education works, and plenty that the curricula is false and misleading. (Still abstinence-only ed shops have received a billion dollars in federal funding since Bush came to office.)

Choicers will be equally proud of the low rate, which they’ll point out is an outgrowth of proper access to birth control and, thus, fewer unwanted pregnancies. Still, while we’ll be hearing about the record low, coverage likely won’t focus on the flip side, that there were nearly half a million (421,123) children born to girls under 20 last year.

There is more work to be done for sure to protect women’s right to choose — whether they want to have an abortion, or take a pill, or have sex before marriage — and though there was lots of good news out of this month’s election, repro rights are still in jeopardy. The Nation’s Katha Pollitt points out that of the 22 pro-choice Dems who ran for Congress only two won, and every anti-choice woman incumbent prevailed.

Fact:

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  • Elizabeth Gettelman is a former managing editor and public affairs director at Mother Jones. To follow her on Twitter, click here.