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Teenagers and Pregnancy

NOW last reported on the very controversial topic of teens and sex in an interview with sex education advocate Shelby Knox. Ms. Knox herself embodies some conflict Americans feel over the issue. She has taken a vow of chastity before marriage but also fought her school district's "abstinence only" sex education policy.

Although the rate of teenage pregnancy in the United States has been declining, it remains by far the highest in the developed world. American high school girls were 33% less likely to get pregnant in 2001 than in 1991. According to John Santelli of Columbia University as reported by THE ECONOMIST, the decline appears to be due to in part to more competent use of contraceptives and in part to teens having less sex.

Birth and Abortion Rates: Women Below 20
Expressed per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19 (1996)
Country Births per 1,000 Abortions per 1,000 Births per 1,000 (1970)
Japan 3.9 7.1 4.4
Netherlands 7.7 3.9 22.6
Italy 7.5 4.9 27.4
Germany 13.0 5.3 55.5
Sweden 17.7 7.7 33.9
United Kingdom 29.6 21.3 49.4
United States 55.6 30.2 69.2

(Source: UNICEF, "Teenage Births in Rich Nations," Read the full report.)

More information: The Alan Guttmacher Institute; KQED's Youth Media Corps: Teen Pregnancy Links

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