Bristol Palin may be the most public face of teen pregnancy and abstinence pledges, but the majority of pregnant teens in the US are not conservative white teens but black and Hispanic. A new study from the Guttmacher Institute shows the US teen pregnancy rates rose 3 percent in 2006 from its all-time low in 2005.
It's easy to blame President Bush. Not only because we're used to it, but also because he boosted federal funding for public abstinence-only programs from $80 million in 2001 to $204 million in 2007. However, as Double X's Jessica Grose points out, there isn't a strong correlation between teen pregnancy and abstinence-only ed when you look at individual states. For examples, she looks to North Dakota, which has public abstinence-only ed and one of the lowest rates of teen pregnancy, and Arizona, who rejected federal funding in 2008 but has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates. Yet Arizona received federal funding until 2008 — nearly $4 million in 2007 — and the Guttmacher's stats are from 2006.
Still there is something to learn: if the pregnancy rate is going to reverse then we can't just blame abstinence-only ed and an old president. Whether it's abstinence or abortion access, targeted sex-ed programs are needed to appeal to all girls and every problem. Maybe that's why abstinence-only ed doesn't work!