We've got lots of opinions about what's behind the numbers of teenage pregnancies. Solid explanations are harder to come by.
But one thing is clear. Sexual abstinence prevents pregnancy. What's equally clear is that once teenagers have sexual relations, most are unlikely to stop. Their problems multiply. The good news is that teenage pregnancies are on the decline, dropping almost 3 percent in a year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. This is the sixth year of decline. The number of abortions is down, too.
The bad news is that the number of teenage pregnancies in America remains woefully high compared with other industrialized countries.
What to do? The answers may depend on how you frame the questions and interpret the data. The considerations are complicated and include cultural issues of religion, race, politics and economics.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit health reproductive research center, credits the decline of teenage pregnancies to a confluence of encouraging factors. Teenagers are less casual about casual sex and less accepting of unwed motherhood. They're delaying their first sexual experience. Fear creates caution as they become aware of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including AIDS.
Sexually active teenagers are using contraceptives more prudently. Increasing numbers prefer long-lasting methods such as Norplant, which can be implanted to last five years, or Depo-Provera, a shot that is effective for 13 weeks. Although such contraceptives are effective in preventing pregnancies, they're expensive and controversial. The Nation of Islam, led by Louis Farrakhan, accuses the pharmaceutical companies and their "pushers" of seeking to use them as a means to the extinction of blacks.
Contraception without condoms also increases the risk of STDs. Chlamydia, one of the most treacherous sexual diseases, is rising among teenage girls. Johns Hopkins University tested 3,202 girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 19 for birth control, pregnancy tests or STDs at Baltimore clinics. The researchers found more than 25 percent of the 14-year olds tested positive for chlamydia; almost 20 percent in the older group …