The pregnancy rate among teenage
girls in the United States has jumped for the first time in more than a decade,
raising alarm that the long campaign to reduce motherhood among adolescents is
faltering, according to a report released Tuesday.
The pregnancy rate among
15-to-19-year-olds increased 3 per cent between 2005 and 2006 – the first jump
since 1990 – according to an analysis of the most recent data collected by the
federal government and the nation’s leading reproductive-health think tank.
Teen pregnancy has long been one of
the most pressing social issues and has triggered intense political debate over
sex education, particularly whether the federal government should fund programs
that encourage abstinence until marriage or focus on birth control.
“The decline in teen pregnancy
has stopped – and in fact has turned around,” said Lawrence Finer,
director of domestic research for the Guttmacher Institute, the non-profit, non-partisan
research group in New York that conducted the analysis. “These data are certainly
cause for concern.”
The abortion rate also inched up
for the first time in more than a decade – rising 1 per cent – intensifying
concern across the ideological spectrum.
“One of the nation’s shining
success stories of the past two decades is in danger of unravelling,” said
Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
“Clearly, the nation’s collective efforts to convince teens to postpone
childbearing must be more creative and more intense, and they must begin today.”
The cause of the increase is the
subject of debate. Several experts blamed the increase in teen pregnancies on
sex-education programs that focus on encouraging abstinence. Others said the reversal
could be due to a variety of factors, including an increase in poverty, an
influx of Hispanics and complacency about AIDS, prompting lax use of birth
control such as condoms.