This week, the CDC announced a historic drop in the rate of teen births. This is great news, and on Time’s website, Amanda Sifferlin discusses what is behind the change. She attributes it to “a mix of greater access to birth control and better sex education.”
Sifferlin is right that better sex education has become available, and this is because of an important shift in policy by the Obama Administration. One of the new Administration’s first acts was to stop funding the ineffective and often dangerously inaccurate “abstinence until marriage” programs that had been in place during the Bush years. Instead, the new administration focused on funding medically accurate and more comprehensive sex education. In a report SIECUS issued this week, they state that the impact of this policy shift can be seen “on the ground” and that real progress is being made.
Thus, it is no coincidence that the CDC found a drop in teen pregnancy in the years 2007 – 2011. That time period roughly coincides with President Obama’s first term and the new emphasis on comprehensive sex education.
Another development during this time period, according to Sifferlin’s article, is that teens had access to a greater number of contraceptive options. I think it is really worth noting that both Plan B and Plan B One-Step became available over-the-counter (OTC) to older teens in 2009. After all, teens are already used to going to drug stores and getting birth control — condoms, which are available OTC, are the most common form of contraception used by them. I can’t find any statistics on teen use of Plan B, but I think the CDC’s new findings certainly argue in favor of not limiting access to this drug by age.
Sadly, both due to the fight over the federal budget and to anti-birth control politicians, federal programs that support sex education and family planning (like the Title X program) will be facing severe budget cuts this year. It would be a shame if the progress that has been made in addressing teen births was lost.