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WELLINGTON, New Zealand, January 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — A new report shows that while New Zealand’s teen birth rates are high when compared internationally, they have declined to their lowest ever rate.

The report, Teen births: Current trends in New Zealand, was released in January by the Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit – once known as the Families Commission.

New Zealand has had the second highest teen birth rate in the developed world for decades.  It is sandwiched between the United States (1st) and the UK (3rd).  This has not changed despite the decline.

The report revealed that in 2013, teen births made up only 5.9 percent of all the births that year.  It is the lowest percentage ever recorded.

Of all women who give birth, 1 in 9 (11 percent) will be aged between 15 and 19 years old.

Almost three quarters of all teen mothers are 18 and 19 years old when they give birth, an increase since 2006, when it was two thirds.  Younger teens are less likely to give birth than they were previously.

Also of interest was the finding that teens that had a first child at the age of 15 were unlikely to have a second or subsequent birth before turning 20.

The decline in births is across all ethnicities, although Maori continue to have the highest teenage birth rate. 

The report shows that the decline in teenage birth rates is a nation-wide phenomenon, with the exception of Northland where the rates are increasing. 

The overall trend in reducing teen pregnancies is also evident in the declining number of abortions in this age group.  Since 2007 the abortion numbers for girls aged 15 to 19 years old have halved (4,173 down to 2,096).

Girls under the age of 15 have not been included in this report, although the trend is echoed with a significant decline in both births and abortions in this age group.

The authors of the report noted that the unexplained increase in teen births which took place in many developed countries, including New Zealand, during the mid 2000’s, appears to also be declining in unison.

Reasons given for the decrease are varied.

One suggestion is that young people are postponing becoming sexually active.  In the 2012 Youth Survey 24 percent reported ever having sex.  In 2001 and 2007 the proportion of teens that reported ever having sexual intercourse was slightly higher, at about one third.

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The authors noted that increased contraception use has been identified in literature as a factor for decreased teen births.  However, the New Zealand Youth Survey reveals that contraception use, to prevent pregnancy, has not increased over the last ten years, staying at about 60 percent.

The decrease is being welcomed by pro-life groups across New Zealand.

“It is exciting to see that there is a decline, both in teenage births and abortions, ” said Dame Colleen Bayer, national director of Family Life International NZ. 

“But we do need to ensure that our young people are getting the right message about sex: that it belongs in marriage as a beautiful union open to the possibility of children.”

This thought was also echoed by Right to Life spokesperson Ken Orr who advocates abstinence education as it “promotes chaste teenagers, who are free of STDs, unplanned pregnancies and abortions.  It also results in happier marriages, fewer divorces with fewer mothers being abandoned to raise children alone.”

Both leaders cautioned against so-called comprehensive sexuality education as an answer to further reduce the teen birth rate.

An infographic fact sheet with the key findings of the report can be downloaded here.

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