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Friday, June 24, 2011

Teenage Pregnancy Prevention: Statistics and Programs

Carmen Solomon-Fears
Specialist in Social Policy

In 2009, U.S. teen births accounted for 10.1% of all births and 21.4% of all nonmarital births. The birth rate for U.S. teenagers (ages 15 through 19) increased in 2006 and 2007 after a steady decline since 1991. However, in 2008 and 2009 the teen birth rate dropped below the 2007 teen birth rate, reversing the two-year upward trend. Although the birth rate for U.S. teens has dropped in 16 of the last 18 years, it remains higher than the teenage birth rate of most industrialized nations. Preventing teen pregnancy is generally considered a priority among policymakers and the public because of its high economic, social, and health costs for teen parents and their families.

The Adolescent Family Life (AFL) program, created in 1981 (Title XX of the Public Health Services Act), was the first federal program to focus on adolescents. It was created to support demonstration projects that provide comprehensive and innovative health, education, and social services to pregnant and parenting adolescents, their infants, male partners, and their families. From 1998 to 2009, federal teen pregnancy prevention efforts in the AFL program and in general relied heavily on using abstinence-only education as their primary tool. The appropriation for the AFL program was $16.7 million in FY2010 and is $12.4 million for FY2011.

It appears that a consensus is now growing around the viewpoint that success in the teen pregnancy prevention arena does not necessarily have to be an “either-or” proposition in which abstinence-only education programs are pitted against comprehensive sex education programs. P.L. 111-117 (the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010) included a new discretionary Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program, funded at $110 million for FY2010, which provides grants and contracts, on a competitive basis, to public and private entities to fund “medically accurate and age appropriate” programs that reduce teen pregnancy. P.L. 112-10 (the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011) included funding of $109.2 million for the TPP program for FY2011 ($104.8 million for the grant program and $4.4 million for program evaluation).

P.L. 111-148 (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) established a new state formula grant program and appropriated $375 million at $75 million per year for five years (FY2010- FY2014) to enable states to operate a new Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), which is a comprehensive approach to teen pregnancy prevention that educates adolescents on both abstinence and contraception to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. PREP also provides youth with information on several adulthood preparation subjects (e.g., healthy relationships, adolescent development, financial literacy, parent-child communication, educational and career success, and healthy life skills).

The Title V Abstinence Education Block Grant to states was authorized under P.L. 104-193 (the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996). The Title V Abstinence Education program is a formula grant program, specifically for abstinence-only education, funded by mandatory spending. The program’s funding expired on June 30, 2009, but P.L. 111-148 reauthorized the program and restored funding to it at the previous annual level of $50 million for each of FY2010-FY2014.

This report briefly examines some of the data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics on teenage childbearing, offers potential reasons for high teen pregnancy and birth rates, and provides basic information on federal programs whose purpose is primarily to delay sexual activity among teenagers and to reduce teen pregnancy.

Date of Report: June 9, 2011
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RS20301
Price: $29.95

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