Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Teen pregnancy constant, abortions up, despite expensive sex-ed programs: study

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

LONDON, August 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A study of the data between 1969 and 2009, shows that British government policies that focus on providing “family planning,” or contraception and abortion, have failed to have any impact on teenage pregnancy rates. Despite the millions of pounds spent in government initiatives over the last four decades pregnancy rates among teenaged girls aged 13-16 have remained steady, while abortion rates have gone up.

Even less effective have been programs to provide “emergency birth control” after sexual encounters, a practice that has seen increases in teens contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

“The time appears ripe for a shift in focus from policies aimed at reducing the risks associated with underage sexual activity to those which are aimed more directly at reducing the level of underage sexual activity,” said David Paton, a professor of industrial economics at Nottingham University.

Paton says it is “striking” that the rate of conceptions among girls under 16s “was almost exactly the same in 2009 as 40 years previously”.

While the rate has climbed and dropped, with a 40-year low of 7 per 1000 girls aged 13-16 in 1980, overall it has held steady at between 7 and 10 per 1000. Since 1969, the rate has spiked three times: in the mid 1970s, the early 1990s and again in 1996. This 1996 “historic peak” was four years after the launch of an initiative aimed at cutting teenage conceptions by 50 per cent.

“Notably, the decrease in underage pregnancy that has occurred since the late 1990s stems largely from a decrease in underage births,” he wrote in an article in this month’s edition of the journal Education and Health.

“In contrast, the rate of underage conceptions ending in abortion (probably the best measure of unwanted pregnancy) appears to have been particularly resistant to policy interventions, with the rate in 2009 being higher than at the start of the 1999 Strategy.”

Paton’s conclusions have been criticised by sex-education and abortion campaigners like Brook and the Family Planning Association who said that more time is needed for the policies to work.

Paton, however, says that such groups are making false claims. He told LifeSiteNews.com that while sex-education groups, and the governments that follow their advice, claim to be using a Dutch model to push for more and earlier compulsory contraception-oriented sex-education, the practice in the Netherlands is in reality far different.

“Brook and the FPA have called for earlier sex-ed with statutory content - the opposite to the Netherlands! That access to family planning or explicit sex ed has any role in explaining lower teen prey rates in the Netherlands is a myth that was debunked many years ago and those claiming otherwise should really know better.”

“In principle,” he told LSN, “I am not against schools helping parents to deliver sex ed. I am, however, against schools, parents and governments being told by so-called experts that all children need to be given a particular form of sex ed at young ages if we are to cut underage pregnancy rates when the peer-reviewed evidence to support such a claim is simply not there.”

In his article, Paton wrote, “Implicit (and sometimes explicit)” in government policies teaching children about “safe sex” and giving them access to “family planning,” has been the assumption that it “will reduce pregnancy rates amongst those teenagers who were already having sex but will not cause an increase in the proportion of all teenagers who engage in sexual activity,” Paton wrote.

But the data implies that telling kids how to have “safe” sex and providing them with contraception, and kids getting pregnant, “are irretrievably interlinked”. More and easier access to contraception, combined with the permissive message from teachers and authority figures, “reduces the effective cost of sexual activity” and encourages underage teens to engage in sexual activity.

He points to a 1985 court ruling restricting provision of contraception to under-16s without parental consent, but says that during that period, “family planning take-up amongst this group went down by over 30%,” while the under-16 abortion rate was unchanged. In 1992 a government policy was launched to “improve access to family planning for young people”.

“In each case, we can see a significant increase in the take-up of family planning amongst under-16s, but no discernible reduction in underage abortion rates.”

In 2010, the last government admitted that their teen pregnancy initiatives, including sex education, had largely been a failure. Statistics released showed that about 40,000 British girls under 18 became pregnant in 2008, or 40 per 1000, a fall of 13.3 per cent. The figures were a disappointment to the governing Labour party who, in 1999, had pledged to halve the teen pregnancy rate by 2010.

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