Who says abstinence education or emphasis by parents, faith communities, and schools is not effective? The AP reports on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report finding that “about 43 percent of the girls in the survey said they’d had sex … down from a similar survey in 1995, when 51 percent of teen girls said they’d had sex.”
The report also claims “more teen girls now use the best kinds of birth control,” as “about 60 percent of teen girls who have sex use the most effective kinds of contraception,” which are listed as “the pill, patch, vaginal ring, IUD, the Implanon arm implant and the Depo-Provera contraceptive shot.”
The report was “based on a national survey of 2,300 girls ages 15 to 19, conducted in the years 2006 through 2010.”
The New York Times in its “Motherlode” blog focuses, as you might expect, primarily on the use of contraception, “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.”
Other reports, which are more objective, in my view, gave greater weight to the decline in the percentage of teenagers reporting being abstinent from sexual activity.
National Journal reports, “Fewer teen girls in the United States are having sex, and more of those who do are using contraception,” as “more than half [56.7 percent] of teen girls ages 15-19 have never had sex.”
Bloomberg News takes the middle road, saying, “Fewer teenage girls have sex, and more of those that do are using effective contraception.” This actually represents what the data say.
HealthDay reports that the increased use of contraception “may explain part of the dramatic drop in the US teen pregnancy rate,” which has fallen “44 percent since 1990, to 34 births for every 1,000 females.”
The CDC’s Crystal Pirtle Tyler commented, “We know there have been declines in teen pregnancy, which is wonderful, and increases in abstinence among teens, which is really wonderful also.”
She adds, “there has also been increases in contraceptive use.” Tyler said that “teens and their doctors need to have talks about delaying having sex” commenting, “it would be great if teens know that the majority of teens have never had sex.”
Even more important, parents should be talking about sex and sexuality early and often.
WebMD says the report found that “more girls in the US are remaining virgins until their late teens and into their 20s, with the biggest rates of decline in sexual activity seen among African-Americans and Hispanics,” with 57 percent reporting “they had never had vaginal intercourse … up from 49% in 1995.”
That percentage “was roughly the same for African-Americans, whites, and Hispanics.”
The CDC’s Tyler said, “Many teens still believe most of their peers are having sex,” adding, “That is why it is so important to get the message out that the majority of teens are not having sex.”
Parents and faith communities can and should trumpet this message.