The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

National teen pregnancy rate rises after years of decline

In 1990 — the year many freshmen and sophomores at Marquette were born — the nation’s teen pregnancy rate was 116.9 per 1,000, a number that had been on a steady decline until now.

A new report shows that the rate has increased for the first time in 16 years — re-opening the door to much debate about teen pregnancy.

The latest figures for 2006 show there were 71.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19, according to a study published last month by the Guttmacher Institute, a New York City-based reproductive health public policy group.

Rebecca Wind, senior communications associate for the organization, said in an e-mail that abstinence-only educational programs may be partly responsible for the rate’s increase.

“Abstinence-only education has received huge amounts of funding until recently and has become widespread,” she said. “The rigid abstinence-only programs that were funded by the federal government are moralistic, but most importantly, these programs do not discuss contraception unless to denigrate its effectiveness.”

Wind said promoting abstinence until marriage is unrealistic, since data shows that many teens become sexually active well before marriage.

“Teens need open lines of communication with parents and other trusted adults, access to confidential, affordable contraceptives and accurate information about how to become sexually healthy adults,” she said.

Officials from Pro-Life Wisconsin disagree with the Guttmacher Institute’s assessment that abstinence-only programs are to blame.

Virginia Zignego, communications director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, said the focus should be on the drastic decrease in teen pregnancy from 1990 to 2000 that occurred under the institution of many abstinence-only programs.

“In the early 90s abstinence started to get out, and that’s when you saw the biggest decreases,” she said.

Zignego said parents should have conversations with their children since educational programs can be limited.

Anna Johnson, a freshman in the College of Health Sciences, has a close friend expecting a baby this month.

“It really opens your eyes to the reality of pregnancy when you see it happen to a friend,” she said.

Johnson said different types of sex education can affect girls’ choices about having sex or not. And she also believes that high school and college girls can be influenced by television shows, such as “Teen Mom” on MTV, or the publicity of pregnant teens like Jamie Spears and Bristol Palin. But ultimately, girls make the final decision, she said.

“The media definitely has an influence on young girls’ lives and the decisions they make,” she said. “But being raised in a strong Catholic environment and talking to my parents really helped me learn about the issue.”

Both Wind and Zignego agreed that teen pregnancy is an issue in which education is only part of the solution.

“When it comes down to it, whether a girl is having sex or practicing abstinence in her teen years is her decision, and what helps her make the decision is unique in every case,” Johnson said.

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