Tim Tebow, Senate Hope to Reverse Teen Pregnancy Trend

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After a decade of decline, the rate of teenage pregnancies in the United States increased in the year 2006, according to a new report released by the Guttmacher Institute. As pregnancies rose, so did both teen births and teen abortions.

According to the report, teen pregnancy rose by 3% as approximately 750,000 women younger than the age of 20 became pregnant. Birth rate increased 4% - 41.9 births per 1000 teenage girls – and abortions increased 1%. Ethnic and racial trends were noted in the report. Among black teens, the pregnancy rate was 126.3 per 1000 versus 44 per 1000 among non-Hispanic white teenagers.

The Guttmacher report, based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics, indicated the reason for the trend is complex, including increase in poverty, and the changes in the public perception and attitudes toward both teenage and unintended pregnancy. For example, the New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Texas had the highest rates of teenage pregnancies, and according to a report by the National School Boards Association, Hispanic teens tend to look at the prospect of pregnancy more favorably than other teens.

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Southern States such as Mississippi, Texas, and South Carolina also saw a rise in both teen pregnancies and teen births. Last year, a report in the journal Reproductive Health suggested that states that have more conservative religious beliefs, such as Southern Baptists, have a higher rate of teen pregnancies because they are less likely to use contraception.

Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the group Planned Parenthood blamed the increase on the lack of comprehensive sex education in favor of abstinence-only programs. "Abstinence works for some teens, but the idea that most teens will wait to have sex indefinitely is rigid and impractical," said Richard S. Guido, MD, chair of the ACOG's Committee on Adolescent Health Care.

In December 2009, the US Senate passed a package of spending bills for the 2010 fiscal year which included an investment in efforts to prevent teen pregnancy. The $114 million program will eliminate spending for abstinence only programs, shifting funds to a comprehensive, evidenced-based prevention program with “medically accurate and age-appropriate” information. The funding will be administered by the Office of Adolescent Health, a new division of the HHS.

"We applaud leaders in Congress and the Administration for making teen pregnancy prevention a funding priority for the coming year," said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Given the recent increase in the teen birth rate, it is more important than ever to invest in interventions with evidence of success.”

Religious groups have stepped forward to address the rising abortion rate among teen Americans. Focus on the Family, an evangelical Christian group, will sponsor a 30-second ad during next week’s Super Bowl featuring University of Florida quarterback star and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mother. Dr. James Dobson, founder of the Colorado-based group, described the ad as a “celebration of family and life.”

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