According to a CDC study, the teen birthrate dropped substantially last year, for the third year in a row. The reason: birth control.
The Guttmacher Institute reports that the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics has found a 9% drop in births to teenage mothers between 2009 and 2010. In fact, 2010 saw a record low in teen births, of 34 per 1000 teens. But teenagers aren't having less sex — a separate CDC study found that there was no significant change in teen sexual activity from 2006 to 2010. Nor are they having more abortions — the CDC says the teen abortion rate is actually going down. Instead, teens are just getting way better at using contraception.
Guttmacher's own research found that hormonal contraceptive use among teens jumped from 37% to 47% between 2006 and 2010. IUD use climbed from 1.4% to 4.4%. And teens also became more likely to use two methods of birth control for added protection — dual contraceptive use went from 16% to 23% during this period. Guttmacher points to a couple of medical policy changes as possible reasons for the increase — more doctors are now willing to prescribe IUDs to teens, and it's increasingly possible for young people to get a prescription for the Pill without a pelvic exam and Pap. Taken together, all this suggests that increased access to some of the most effective methods of birth control has brought the teen birth rate down. Imagine that!
This news is especially important at a time when personhood legislation aims to make some of these methods illegal. And it comes on the heels of news that teen pregnancy rates actually rose in states that taught abstinence-only sex ed. The new birth-rate data is clear evidence that readily available contraception reduces not just teens' likelihood of pregnancy but their likelihood of seeking abortion — it's time for abstinence-only proponents and anti-birth control zealots alike to face these facts.