A study has shown that while the U.S. is currently enjoying a steady decline in the number of teen pregnancies, states with sex ed and health classes that stress “abstinence-only” education rank the highest in the numbers of underage pregnancies, according to a post at Think Progress.
The current rate of teen pregnancies, about 35 per 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19, is the lowest on record since the CDC began to track these statistics in 1940. The CDC attributes the improvement to pregnancy prevention efforts and education.
However, 37 states currently mandate that all sex education include information on abstinence, 26 of whom insist that abstinence be taught as the main method of pregnancy prevention. Studies have indicated that abstinence-only programs may end up deterring contraceptive use among teens who do have sex, whereas teenagers who have been taught a comprehensive sex ed curriculum are “60 percent less likely” to become pregnant or get someone else pregnant.
Additionally, a 2007 federal study indicated that abstinence-only education ultimately had “no impacts ” at all on rates of sexual abstinence.
The two states with the highest rates of teen pregnancies are Mississippi and New Mexico. Neither state requires that sex ed be taught in schools. Mississippi law stipulates that when sexual education is taught, that abstinence be the main method of contraception proscribed by educators, whereas New Mexico has no rules about reproductive health criteria at all.
The state with the lowest rate of teen pregnancies is New Hampshire, which requires comprehensive sex ed in schools that includes information about condoms and other forms of birth control in addition to abstinence.