Teen birth rates rise 3% overall, adult liberal reading comprehension rates continue to decline

As you can expect, the news the CDC reported Wednesday about the teen birth rate rising 3% in 2006, the first time the number has risen since 1991, the usual suspects were all aflutter about how this new information is just “more proof” that “abstinence-only” programs don’t work, while comprehensive sex edcuation programs “do.”

First, here’s a brief history of abstinence-only education funding (links for the numbers you see in brackets are directly on the page itself):

In 1996, Congress signed into law the Personal Responsibility & Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act, or “welfare reform.” Attached was the provision, later set out in Section 510(b) of Title V of the Social Security Act, appropriating $250 million dollars over five years for state initiatives promoting sexual abstinence outside of marriage as the only acceptable standard of behavior for young people.

For the first five years of the initiative, every state but California participated in the program.[2] (California had experimented with its own abstinence-only initiative in the early 1990’s. The program was terminated in February 1996, when evaluation results found the program to be ineffective.[3]) From 1998 to 2003, almost a half a billion dollars in state and federal funds were appropriated to support the Title V initiative.

Keep in mind that information about California, which I’ll refer back to later.

Here was the typical MSM reporting on the news about the 2006 rise in teen birth rates:

ATLANTA (AP) — In a troubling reversal, the nation’s teen birth rate rose for the first time in 15 years, surprising government health officials and reviving the bitter debate about abstinence-only sex education.

The birth rate had been dropping since its peak in 1991, although the decline had slowed in recent years. On Wednesday, government statisticians said it rose 3 percent from 2005 to 2006.

The reason for the increase is not clear, and federal health officials said it might be a one-year statistical blip, not the beginning of a new upward trend.

However, some experts said they have been expecting a jump. They blamed it on increased federal funding for abstinence-only health education that doesn’t teach teens how to use condoms and other contraception.

Some key sexually transmitted disease rates have been rising, including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. The rising teen pregnancy rate is part of the same phenomenon, said Dr. Carol Hogue, an Emory University professor of maternal and child health.

“It’s not rocket science,” she said.


At the same time, some research suggests teens are using condoms far more often than they did 15 years ago.


Decreased condom use and increased sexual activity are two likely explanations for the higher teen birth rate. But not all data supports those theories, said John Santelli, a professor of population and family health at Columbia University’s school of public health.

For example, a biannual government survey of high school students found that the percentage of those who said they used a condom the last time they had sex rose to 63 percent in 2005, up from 46 percent in 1991.

What did the pro-sexualizing-of-young-teens organization Planned Parenthood have to say about the news?

The new report offers a state-by-state breakdown of birth rates overall. Many of those with the highest birth rates teach abstinence instead of comprehensive sex education, according to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

That’s incredibly deceptive – on purpose, I’m sure. Liberal groups like Planned Parenthood would like people to believe that “abstinence only” education strictly forbids any discussion of safe sex beyond abstinence. That’s not always the case. For example, if you take a look at page one of this CDC document, which lists the percentage of live births to mothers under 20 years old for 2005 and 2006, you’ll see that the birth rate per 1000 under-20 females in Louisiana increased from 13.7 to 13.8. But if you go to the anti-abstinence SIECUS website (to learn more about how huge SIECUS is to the public school system, click here), where they break down abstinence only education funds by state, you’ll see this about Louisiana (emphasis added):

Louisiana received approximately $2,745,625 in federal funds for
abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2006.1

Louisiana Sexuality Education Law and Policy
Louisiana does not require schools to offer sexuality or sexually transmitted disease (STD)/HIV education, but schools are permitted to offer it after sixth grade. State law mandates that sexuality education cannot be offered in kindergarten through sixth grade, except in Orleans Parish, which may offer sexuality education in the third grade and above. Schools must provide this education “regardless of the student’s grade level” if the student is parenting or pregnant.

Louisiana law defines sexuality education as:

[T]he dissemination of factual biological or pathological information that is related to the human reproduction system (sic) and may include the study of sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, childbirth, puberty, menstruation, and menopause, as well as the dissemination of factual information about parental responsibilities under the child support laws of the state.

The education must be integrated into “an existing course study such as biology, science, physical hygiene, or physical education.” It cannot include “religious beliefs, practices in human sexuality, nor the subjective moral and ethical judgments of the instructor or other persons. Students shall not be tested, quizzed, or surveyed about their personal or family beliefs or practices in sex, morality, or religion.” Classes may not include “any sexually explicit materials depicting male or female homosexual activity.” They also may not in “any way counsel or advocate abortion.” In addition, this education must emphasize that:

—- abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children;

—- abstinence from sexual activity is a way to avoid unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, including acquired immune deficiency syndrome, and other associated health problems; and

—- each student has the power to control personal behavior and to encourage students to base action on reasoning, self-esteem, and respect for others.

Louisiana also requires that all public high schools that offer home economics classes must also provide “parenthood education” which must includes the topics of family living and community relationships, the consequences of the lack of adequate prenatal care, home management, and the responsibilities of parenthood.

In addition, Louisiana now requires adoption awareness be included in any health education or appropriate class. This includes instruction on “the benefits of adoption for families wishing to add a child, for potential adoptees, and for persons who are pregnant or who have a child for whom they are unable to care.”

According to the Louisiana Handbook for School Administrators, students must be taught “the principle modes by which communicable diseases, including, but not limited to, HIV infection, are spread and the best methods for the restriction and prevention of these diseases.”

Here’s another example – the state of Arkansas, where the 2005 and 2006 rate remained at 14.7:

Arkansas received $2,110,782 in federal funds for
abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in Fiscal Year 2006.1

Arkansas Sexuality Education Law and Policy
Arkansas law does not require schools to teach sexuality education or sexually transmitted disease (STD)/HIV education. If a school offers sexuality or STD/HIV education, it must stress abstinence. Arkansas maintains curriculum standards for physical and health education; however, these do not include specific guidelines pertaining to the content of sexuality education courses. According to the Department of Education, course content is left to the discretion of the local school districts and varies widely from school to school. There is also no system of evaluation to monitor the subject matter covered in health education classes across the state.

School-based health clinics may teach sexuality education and may also prescribe and distribute contraceptives with written parental consent; however, no state funds may be used to purchase condoms or contraceptives. These school-based health clinics must maintain records of the number of condoms and other contraceptive devices distributed and prescribed, as well as the number of pregnancies and STDs in the school. This information must remain confidential. Clinics may not give information about abortions or refer students to where they might find such information.

Arkansas does not require parental permission for students to participate in sexuality or HIV/AIDS education nor does it say whether parents or guardians may remove their children from such classes.

Those are just a couple of examples of many you’ll find at the SIECUS website, where you’ll see that states which receive “abstinence-only” funding don’t always limit their sex ed programs to being strictly about abstinence. It varies from state to state, with some of the states doing as Arkansas does by leaving it up to local school officials as to what to teach, while others operate primarily off of state guidelines, which also vary on how far school districts can go in what they teach to young people about sex, and what they should “stress” more: abstinence or an emphasis on ways to have safe sex.

It’s interesting – but not surprising – that The Usual Suspects jumped on the opportunity to blame abstinence-only education after the release of the CDC study results. But what Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and other like-minded ‘progressives’ in her ‘enlightened’ circles count on their supporters not doing is carefully reviewing and understanding the statistics released on Wednesday, and judging by the knee-jerk reactions from the usual corners, she has nothing to worry about on that front.

For example, as I noted earlier, California accepts no Title V funding for abstinence-only programs in the public schools, but as reported yesterday by the LAT, the teen birthrate in California increased 1.6% between 2005 and 2006:

The teen birthrate in California also saw a 1.6% increase in 2006 to 37.8 births per 1,000 teenage girls, according to state figures. Dr. Bonnie Sorensen of the California Department of Public Health said the state accepts no federal money for abstinence-only education.

But I thought the rise in the rate was due solely to abstinence-only education?

Another inconvenient truth to the abstinence-only crowd: Even after the push for more comprehensive abstinence-only education started in 1996, teen birth rates continued to decline in *all* states. This 2002 CDC report, which covers 1991-2000, shows those stats. And remember, all states but California were participating in Title V abstinence-only funding when it started in 1996.

Page 8 of this CDC report on 2002 data states (emphasis added):

Birth rates for teenagers by State are shown for 2002 in tables B and 10. In 2002 State-specific birth rates per 1,000 women aged 15–19 years ranged from 20.0 (New Hampshire) to 64.7 (Mississippi). The highest rate reported for 2002 was for the District of Columbia, 69.1. Between 2001 and 2002 teenage birth rates declined in 45 States with significant decreases in 23 States, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Marianas. Other changes between 2001 and 2002 were not statistically significant. Since 1991 teenage birth rates have declined significantly in all States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Birth rates for teenagers declined by 30 percent or more in 19 States, the District of Columbia, and Guam.

Data for 2004 shows a still declining national birth rate amongst teens, although it’s more modest than in previous years. We saw another national decline in the teen birth rate in 2005, which the CDC described as the “lowest level ever.” (BTW, I couldn’t get the 2003 stats document to open for some reason)

Isn’t it funny how during the first years of the Bush administration everytime we heard about declining birth rates amongst teens that it was in spite of the Bush administration’s (and the prior Republican Congress’) emphasis on abstinence only education? Yet, when the rates go up in 2006, for the first time since 1991, we now learn that it’s because of it?

This new report by the CDC is a mixed bag of news for both sides of the debate about sex ed. About the only thing this study conclusively proves, though, is that the problems adult liberals have with basic reading comprehension are only getting worse.

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