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States That Don't Require Abstinence Education Have Lowest Teen Pregnancy Rates

By carolyncastiglia |


Teen Pregnancy Rates Still High in Parts of the U.S.

Teenage pregnancy rates are down overall, but some states still have very high birth rates for teenage girls – topping 60/1000 in Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, according to The Hill.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control released a report today covering these findings and much more, including that the ten states with the lowest teenage pregnancy rate are in the Northeast and Midwest.

Women’s health advocates like Leslie Kantor of Planned Parenthood say “the discrepancies are indication that…. the teen birthrate is lower in states that provide students with comprehensive, evidence-based sex education.”  The Hill notes that “All five states with the highest teen birth rates have adopted policies requiring that abstinence be stressed when taught as part of sex education,” and that “Of the four states with the lowest teen birth rates, none requires that abstinence be stressed to students.”

To be sure, sex education programs that teach young men and women how to use birth control (condoms, the pill, etc.) can go a long way to prevent teenage pregnancy.  But there are also cultural forces at work here, clearly.  Teenagers living in the Southeast are much more likely to get pregnant than teens in the Northeast, and black and Hispanic teens are more likely to get pregnant than white teens, according to the CDC report.

My colleague Danielle at Being Pregnant thinks that television shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant are perhaps glamorizing teenage pregnancy.  I don’t doubt that, but it seems pretty obvious that the conservative agenda and culture in Southern states could use to re-think itself.  Otherwise, Republicans in those areas will be faced with more mouths from which to take food stamps away.


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About carolyncastiglia



Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “States That Don't Require Abstinence Education Have Lowest Teen Pregnancy Rates

  1. Nancee McPherson says:

    While I understand (not necessarily agree) with abstinence teaching, the huge, glaring problem with it is that it’s not reality based.

  2. Emily says:

    That’s ironic. But it also makes sense. The very act of stressing the whole “no premarital sex because you will get pregnant and that is really REALLY BAD” makes the acts involved, including being pregnant and giving birth, seem glamourous, because we’re defiant little teenagers who are curious. Just like with drugs.

  3. Gretchen Powers says:

    I’m not pro-abstinence ed, BUT, it is interesting to note that the Hill piece and the CDC report talk about BIRTH rates, not PREGNANCY rates. I don’t know, but, could it be that more of them choose to keep the babies and give birth in these more religious states whereas more of them have abortions in the less religious states?

  4. Pamela says:

    I agree with Gretchen – it would be very interesting to see a comparison in teen abortion rates among the states discussed here. Also, I think cultural and socio-economic factors are likely playing a large role.

  5. Diane says:

    I thought that the show Teen Mom would have the opposite effect on teenage girls, making pregnancy seem less desirable, less glamorous. Those girls seem to be really struggling. Guess I need to talk to a few teen girls and find out.

  6. Lula says:

    I too want to see studies comparing pregnancy rates vs. birth rates, but it’s important to note that the states most likely to insist on abstinence-only programs are also states where access to abortion may be severely restricted. In that case, it’s not so much about girls *choosing* to keep pregnancies as it is girls facing extreme hardship in accessing the option of pregnancy termination – because of a lack of providers, restrictive parental notification laws, etc. No choice without access.

    Of course, the same state policies that make it difficult for people to have an abortion tend to make contractive access difficult too. I spent high school in a state known for hating on abortion, and the largest city had no Planned Parenthood or equivalent until the mid-1990s. And that was in the largest city in the state! Outside of the city, you were even more hard-pressed to get BC.

  7. Treespeed says:

    It’s pretty common sense if you don’t teach kids about birth control/STD prevention they won’t know what to do when they do have sex.
    Also, an older, but clear study on the failings of abstinence only education.

  8. PlumbLucky says:

    Thinking of the bigger picture, isn’t this the case in other industrialized nations as well? Better fact based (i.e. not “don’t have sex!” abstinence only) sex ed, better access to contraceptives, lower pregnancy rates?
    Then there’s the limited experience I have from my small town – the girls who had parents opt them out of the sex ed portion of Health class? Yeah. Most of them (you knew who they were, they got hall passes to the library at the start of class for the three week segment) were pregnant by the time we graduated. Most = 8 of the 13 I knew. That’s better than 50% anyways. The boys? There were four that I was aware of, and of those four, two were responsible for teen pregnancies during HS that we knew of (meaning the girl went to our school too!).
    I’m really curious how both 16&P and Teen Mom could “glamorize” teen pregnancy myself.

  9. carolyncastiglia says:

    I agree about abortion rates, but that’s something we try not to bring up around here. Also, I read a while ago abortions are quickly becoming a thing of the past thanks to the morning after pill, which sounds like a good thing to me.

  10. MissLadyTay says:

    This isn’t news. This has been well-documented for a long time. Teenagers who are told nothing but “don’t have sex” still have sex. But they lack any tools to protect themselves from STDs or pregnancy.

  11. michelle says:

    Gretchen and Pamela, both birth AND pregnancy rates are higher in the southern/religious states.

    So although abortion rates are lower in those states, it is also the case that a higher percentage of girls are getting pregnant in the first place.

  12. Gretchen Powers says:

    thanks for the data…ugh…I’m putting my girl on the pill when she is a teen

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