Birth and abortion rates for U.S. teens hit an all-time low

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A new study from the Guttmacher Institute finds that both abortion and birth rates for women aged 15-19 has fallen dramatically, but racial and ethnic differences persist.

U.S. teens are becoming pregnant – and getting abortions – at a record low rate not seen since at least 1972, the study found. And the primary reason for the success is not abstinence, but use of contraceptives.

Unfortunately, racial and ethnic disparities persist, with Black and Hispanic pregnancy and abortion rates two to four times higher than those of whites.

The Guttmacher Institute, the nonprofit sexual health research group that conducted the analysis, looked at government statistics on teen-age sex, pregnancies and births, as well as the institute's own data on abortions for 2008, the most recent year for which the statistics were available.

The numbers showed that 98% of the nearly 750,000 U.S. women between the ages of 15 and 19 became pregnant that year. That translated to a rate of 67.8 pregnancies per 1,000 women in the age group – a rate not seen since 1972, the year before the Supreme Court ruled on Roe vs. Wade.

That also translated to a 42% reduction from a teen pregnancy peak of 116.9 per 1,000 in 1990.

The drop in the rate of abortions for the age group is even more impressive. The data show a rate of 17.8 per 1,000 girls and represents a 59% drop from a teen abortion peak in 1988, when it was 43.5 per 1,000 girls.

The Institute said the impressive drops in teen pregnancy and abortion rates were largely attributable to increased use of contraceptives for both genders. "Teens are also using more effective forms of contraception," said Kathryn Kost, who is a demographer with the Guttmacher Institute and who co-authored the analysis.

She said that about a quarter of the reduction in pregnancy and abortion rates can be attributed to abstinence. In other words, 75% of the rate of reduction can be attributed to better access to more effective contraception.

And even though their rates have dropped, teen pregnancy and abortion remain higher for Black and Hispanic teen girls.

Birth rates for Black and Hispanic teens were twice those of their white peers. Abortion rates for Black teens were four times higher than whites, and twice as high for Hispanics.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
paragraph 4 should read "98" not "98%"

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