Echoing an earlier CDC study, the Guttmacher Institute reports that the pregnancy rate in 15- to 19-year-olds rose 3% between 2005 and 2006, to about 7%. The study takes abortions and miscarriages into account, showing that this isn't just an increase in women carrying their fetuses to term, but an increase in people who got pregnant in the first place. And of course, speculations are now flying as to the cause.
Probably not to blame is the much-vaunted "hookup culture" — a Seventeen magazine study found that among teen boys, serious relationships are about as common as hookups. A more likely culprit is abstinence education — the Guttmacher Institute's Lawrence Finer says, "The focus on abstinence and the shifts in pregnancy occurred about the same time."
Indeed, the abstinence movement — which could get re-funded as part of the Senate health care bill — remains completely tone-deaf. Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association told the Washington Post, "Research unmistakably indicates that delaying sexual initiation rates and reducing the total number of lifetime partners is more valuable in protecting the sexual health of young people than simply passing out condoms." But using a condom can actually prevent pregnancy, whereas having sex later doesn't do much if you don't know anything about birth control. The increase in pregnancy took place mostly among 18- to 19-year-olds, suggesting that even if teens are delaying sex until after high school, many are either unable or unwilling to use protection. Of course, some — like Elizabeth Hasselbeck — will probably take this new data as evidence that we need to be pushing abstinence harder. But as Tracie said of Bristol Palin's new abstinence "guarantee" — "Isn't the definition of insanity repeating the same mistake over and over expecting a different result?"