Teen Pregnancies On the Rise Again

After a decade of declining pregnancies among teenagers, the rate of teenage pregnancy increased by 3 percent in 2006 as 750,000 women younger than 20 became pregnant, according to a report released by the Guttmacher Institute.

And as pregnancies increased, so did births. In 2006, there were 42 births per 1,000 U.S. teenage girls, which was 4 percent higher than 2005. However abortions in this age group increased by 1 percent from 2005 to 2006.

In a prepared statement Planned Parenthood blamed abstinence-only sex education programs for the uptick.

"It is a tragedy that after a decade of progress in reducing the rate of teenage pregnancy we are witnessing a substantial increase in the number of teens who are getting pregnant," the Planned Parenthood statement read.

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In a statement released last May in conjunction with the "National to Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy" the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, agreed that comprehensive sex education was likely to be more effective than abstinence only programs.

"Abstinence works for some teens, but the idea that most teens will wait to have sex indefinitely is rigid and impractical," said Dr. Richard S. Guido, chair of ACOG's Committee on Adolescent Health Care.

Yet the Guttmacher report suggested that the reasons for increase may be more complex, including "shifts in racial and ethnic composition of the population, increased in poverty, the growth of abstinence-only sex education programs at the expense of comprehensive programs, and changes in public perception and attitudes toward both teenage and unintended pregnancy."

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Among black teenagers the pregnancy rate was 126.3 per 1,000 women but the rate was 44 pregnant teens per 1,000 non-Hispanic white teenagers.

A breakdown by state, revealed that New Mexico had the highest teenage pregnancy rate, followed by Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Mississippi.

Conversely, the lowest teenage pregnancy rate was in New Hampshire -- 33 pregnancies per 1,000 -- followed by Vermont, Maine, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

Texas had the highest rate of births to teenage mothers -- 62 per 1,000 -- and New York had the highest rate of abortions among teenagers at 41 per 1,000.

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The report was based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (number of births), the Guttmacher Institute (total number of abortions), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (age and race/ethnicity distribution of women obtaining abortions) and the Population Estimates Program of the U.S. Bureau of the Census in collaboration with NCHS (population estimates).

Among the findings in the report:

The pregnancy rate was 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 girls aged 15-19, and pregnancies occurred among 7 percent of females in this age group.

Although teenage abortions increase by 1 percent from 2005 to 2006, the overall teenage abortion rate decline by about a third over the two decades from 1986 to 2006.

The increase in teen pregnancies and births to teenage mothers was observed across all racial and ethnic groups.

The authors said that additional research was needed to determine if the disparities in rates by both race and region carry over to adult women.

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