This is big news; birth control in schools is really working. It makes sense because lots of teenagers want to screw like bunnies, but not reproduce like bunnies. And that's a good thing, especially for girl rabbits. You know, the ones who often have to ignore or delay other goals to raise the litter. Or, er, child.
"Two things are happening here — teens are using more contraceptives, and they're also delaying sexual activity," Health Commissioner Tom Farley told the NY Daily News.
Who knows how accurate Farley is on the whole delayed sex thing ("very accurate!" said nobody), but it's obvious teens are using more birth control. That's probably because New York City schools give out condoms to kids who need them, and the morning-after pill is available in some school clinics.
Here are the numbers:
For every 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19, 72.6 got pregnant in 2010 - down from 98.8 in 2001.
The rate was 43.1 for girls 15 to 17 and 114.5 for 18- and 19-year-olds.
There are about 19,080 teen pregnancies a year in the city - down from 24,815 in 2001.
Sexual activity has also dropped by 26% - from 50.9% to 37.8% of public high school students.
More girls were using the Pill or other long-term birth control methods the last time they had sex - 17.3% in 2009, up from 26.9% in 2011.
Of course, we can't ignore the fact that black girls have the highest pregnancy rate - "110.7 for every 1000 girls - compared with just 16 for white girls."
"The Bronx still has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country," said Estelle Raboni, director of Changing the Odds, a program aimed at curbing teen pregnancy. "Teens don't always know about their rights. They don't know they have access to those services," she said.
These numbers are largely affected by the fact that it's hard to break the ties between poverty and pregnancy. This is a huge, heartbreaking (and angering) issue that's waist-deep in systemic discrimination and devaluation of the lives of poor women, and especially women of color. We must focus on the bigger issue of the social, cultural, and economic realities of this overwhelming unjustness, and we must also continue to help teens understand why using (free! accessible!) birth control is incredibly important.
Heads up politicians who give a shit about women's reproductive health: This is what we should be spending our time and money on. If you're so concerned about abortion, then it reasons you should be concerned with providing sane alternatives to teens. This program is effective, and fewer pregnancies = fewer abortions. It's called math, get into it.
The math also says that "abstinence only" education isn't working in the United States; we lead the developed world in teen pregnancies. Everyone's scratching their heads over what to do about it, and it's a huge issue that doesn't have just one answer. However, easy access to free birth control — and that includes constantly informing teens of its availability and why it's so necessary — is helping. We cannot afford to ignore this truth.