Teenage Pregnancy Rates Are Way Down In NYC And It Has Nothing To Do With Abstinence Only Education

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shutterstock_120442441New data shows teenage pregnancy rates in NYC have fallen 27% in the last decade. How did this happen? Prayer vigils? Abstinence-only education? “Just say no” to sex campaigns? Nope. Access to birth control is responsible for the falling pregnancy rate. What a shock!

NYC Health Commissioner Tom Farley told the Daily News, “Two things are happening here — teens are using more contraceptives, and they’re also delaying sexual activity.” Not sure how you can prove that they are delaying sexual activity, but whatever. The city has made birth control more accessible to teens by giving out condoms at schools and in some cases making the morning-after pill available at school health clinics. Farley says the numbers show the strategy is working.

“It shows that when you make condoms and contraception available to teens, they don’t increase their likelihood of being sexually active. But they get the message that sex is risky,” he said.

For every 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19, 72.6 got pregnant in 2010 — down from 98.8 in 2001. The rate was 43.1 for girls 15 to 17 and 114.5 for 18- and 19-year-olds.

There are about 19,080 teen pregnancies a year in the city — down from 24,815 in 2001.

Sexual activity has also dropped by 26% — from 50.9% to 37.8% of public high school students.

These numbers are further proof that abstinence-only education is not helping anyone. Statistics show that states with the least available birth control education for teens have the highest pregnancy rates.

The two states with the highest rates of teen pregnancies are Mississippi and New Mexico.  Neither state requires that sex ed be taught in schools.  Mississippi law stipulates that when sexual education is taught, that abstinence be the main method of contraception proscribed by educators, whereas New Mexico has no rules about reproductive health criteria at all.

Teaching teens how to have sex responsibly doesn’t make them all run out and have orgies. Instead, it makes it clear that there are consequences to their decisions. I’d guess that when we give them the information to make informed decisions it makes them feel a little more adult and they act more responsibly. But that’s just my opinion.

Whatever the reason, with statistics like these you just can’t deny that sex education and making birth control available to teens is a good idea. Good job, NYC.

(photo: UbjsP/


  1. Marie Scott

    February 10, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Statistics alone do not prove anything. You have to do correlation studies and conduct empirical studies in order to prove that one thing causes (or creates) another. The obvious bias in this article is completely apparent. (Note the comment about delaying sex. That is abstinence, and whose to say that abstinence programs didn’t contribute to this delay.) I’m not saying that having access to birth control doesn’t lower teen pregnancies; I’m simply saying that you can’t make that conclusion on the evidence presented.

    • Paul White

      February 10, 2013 at 2:20 am

      I’ll agree that simply from the information in the article you cannot draw that conclusion, but if you look at what countries have low early pregnancy rates, you’ll find decent sex ed and readily available contraceptives are a consistent theme–even between countries with widely different cultures.

    • Guerrilla Mom

      February 10, 2013 at 7:35 am

      States that have no sex education or abstinence-only education have the highest teen pregnancy rates – so yes, you can come to the conclusion that education and access to birth control lowers teen pregnancy rates.

    • jessica

      February 14, 2013 at 8:28 am

      You can though because New York City schools (public or private) only offer comprehensive sex education. That info is readily available on the web.

  2. Paul White

    February 10, 2013 at 2:18 am

    Contraceptives reduce pregnancy? Who’d have thought?!?!

    The fact our country still argues about contraceptives reducing pregnancy baffles me continually. No frigging kidding.

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