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.