‘Historic’ drop in teen birth rate, says CDC report

While liberal groups are claiming the drop is thanks to increased use of contraception, abstinence proponents say that the evidence points to the impact of abstinence education.
By Christine Dhanagom

By Christine Dhanagom

April 12, 2012 ( - New figures released this month by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicating a recent drop in the teen birth rate has ignited a fierce debate over the reasons for the change. While liberal groups are claiming the drop in birth rate is thanks to increased use of contraception, abstinence proponents say that the evidence points to the impact of abstinence education.

According to the report, data from the National Vital Statistics System Natality Data File indicates that the teen birth rate dipped to 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 2010.

The CDC called the shift “historic,” noting that the decline represents a 9% drop from 2009, and puts the teen birth rate at the lowest it has been since 1946.


The decline occurred across racial lines, although certain minorities continue to have much higher rates of teen birth than the general population. Birth rates also continue to vary in different states.

The national figures, however, represent an overall trend of decline in teen pregnancy and births in recent years. A study released earlier this year by the Guttmacher Institute showed the 2008 teenage pregnancy rate at the lowest it had been in nearly 40 years.

The organization, which has ties to Planned Parenthood, issued a press release along with the study claiming that “a large body of research has shown that the long-term decline in teen pregnancy, birth and abortion rates was driven primarily by improved use of contraception among teens.”

A statement on the CDC website accompanying the Center’s report on the 2009 decline also connected the trend to increased contraceptive use among teenagers, as well as “the impact of strong pregnancy prevention messages directed to teenagers.”

However, Valerie Huber, Executive Director of the National Abstinence Education Association, told LifeSiteNews that it was “disappointing” that the report’s authors did not give “adequate credibility” to abstinence education as a key factor in the trend.

Huber pointed to recent research which has tracked a decline in teenage sexual activity corresponding with the decline in pregnancy over recent years. Currently, according to the CDC’s own figures, nearly 75% of 15 to 17 year olds have never had sex, Huber said.

”Taken together, both the fact that we’re seeing precipitous drops in teen birth rates and precipitous drops in teen sexual activity rates, the public policy calculation should be pretty simple,” she added.

Huber noted that abstinence educators are wary of the possible agenda behind the report, which she said was “well timed with the FY 2013 budget negotiations,” at a time when the Obama Administration has “virtually done away with most of the abstinence education funding.”

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