I had just crossed the threshold into teenhood when CBS ran a Schoolbreak Special called: “Babies Having Babies.” It was directed by Martin Sheen and starred my idol Lori Loughlin and Jill “The Love Boat” Whelan as pregnant teens who meet up at a group counseling session.
The show was one of my first introductions to the relatively unknown world of teenage motherhood and a far cry from today’s mega-hyped MTV reality TV hits “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.”
Critics have long claimed that both series glamourize teen pregnancy and encourage young girls to procreate outside of marriage. Meanwhile, proponents of the shows maintain that watching the drama’s stars struggle with raising kids when they are just kids themselves is one of the best forms of birth control.
Interestingly, a new report just out reveals a decrease in birthrates among American teens. Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics say the number of teens giving birth in the United States has plummeted in the last decade.
According to the federal report, birthrates among Hispanic teens have hit a record-low level falling by 40% between 2007 and 2011. In addition, African-American and Caucasian groups also saw declines in their teen birthrates of at least 20 percent in 30 or more states.
Today’s low of 31.3 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 is a far cry from the days I was in high school. Back in the early 90s the teen birthrate peaked at 61.8 births per 1,000 teens.
Researchers maintain that the significant decline is not due to pregnant teens choosing abortion, as the latest data shows abortion rates have also declined, falling from 24 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in 2000 to 18 abortions per 1,000 teens in 2008.
So, what is the reason for fewer teenage girls giving birth? According to the federal report, the decline can be attributed to several factors including more teens using contraception, the introduction of more effective contraception methods and stronger teenage pregnancy campaigns.