The primary reasons why U.S. teenagers have the highest rates of pregnancy, childbearing and abortion among developed countries is less overall contraceptive use and less use of the pill or other long-acting reversible hormonal methods, which have the highest use-effectiveness rates.
Overall, declines in the adolescent abortion rate between 1980 and 1995 are less prevalent than are declines in the adolescent birthrate. However, the decline in the U.S. teenage abortion rate between 1985 and 1996 was one of the largest in the developed world—the rate decreased by more than one-third (from 46 to 29 per 1,000). Nonetheless, the U.S. adolescent abortion rate remains one of the highest among developed countries.
My inner pessimist conjectures that the reasons why we have less use of the pill and declines in abortion is simply due their unavailability. Rather than provide education, choice, and opportunities for safe sex, the United States relies on abstinence to prevent these social problems. In 1996, Congress attached a provision to welfare legislation that established a federal program to exclusively fund programs teaching abstinence-only. In 2005, Congress ear-marked $170 million for abstinence-only education. Fewer than half of public schools in the U.S. now offer information on how to obtain birth control, and only a third include discussion of abortion and sexual orientation in their curricula. Moreover, these abstinence-only cirricula contain misinformation and other innacuracies, including,
Choosing the Best, The Big Talk Book states, "[R]esearch confirms that 14 percent of the women who use condoms scrupulously for birth control become pregnant within a year." In fact, when used correctly and consistently, only two percent of couples who rely on the latex condom as their primary form of contraception will experience an unintended pregnancy (Hatcher, et al., 2004).
Abstinence is one of the most unrealistic forms of birth control. Certainly, people can be self-righteous about abstinence when they don't have the opportunity for sex, but the human brain has evolved to turn off when reproduction is on the line. The U.S. preaches abstinence to its teenagers, and it has the highest teenage pregnancy and abortion rates of all the developed countries in the world.
I am pro-choice. I am not pro-abortion. I want to see the rates of teenage pregnancy and abortion decline just as much as the pro-life supporters do. I wish that everyone would realize that simply preaching "abstinence" to our country's teenagers is not having the effect that the right would have you believe that it does.