Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control released a new report on fertility rates. It found that the teen pregnancy rate continues to decline and reached historic lows in 2009. The sharp decline in the teen pregnancy rate during the 20 years has been an important, but unheralded, public policy success story. Since 1990 the teen pregnancy rate has fallen by a whopping 51 percent. Furthermore, the teen pregnancy rate has fallen in every state. The declines have also been fairly consistent across demographic groups; The rate for Black teens has fallen by 51 percent and the rate for Hispanic teens has fallen by 40 percent.
The media coverage has been fairly balanced. Unsurprisingly, most news outlets give increased contraception use most of the credit. However, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and CNN.com all specifically cited reductions in teen sexual activity as a reason for the decline. The Washington Post even cited a researcher from the pro-contraception Guttmacher Institute who agreed that reductions in teen sexual activity were playing a role in the decline. Indeed, a recent Guttmacher study found that starting with the 1978 birth cohort, the median age for first sexual intercourse began to gradually and consistently increase — approaching 18 years of age for those born in 1991.
Receiving less attention is the fact that the teen abortion rate also continues to decline. In fact, since the early 1990s, the teen abortion rate has declined faster than the teen pregnancy rate. This indicates that a higher percentage of pregnant teens are choosing to carry their child to term. Since 1992, 18 states enacted pro-life parental involvement laws – and many academic studies have shows that these laws reduce teen abortion rates. However, teen abortion rates have declined in states without parental involvement laws. This provides additional evidence that the pro-life efforts have been successful at changing the hearts and minds of America’s youth.