Teen Birth Rate Up Again; Fuels Sex Ed Debate

The U.S. teen birth rate increased for the second consecutive year, and while many have been quick to blame abstinence-only education for the rise, some are questioning the comprehensive sex education that is being taught in many schools.

"When over two-thirds of public schools (68 percent) teach comprehensive sex education and those programs receive more than four times the amount of federal funding than the amount designated for abstinence programs, it's time to ask Dr. Phil's question, 'How's that working for you?'" posed Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, director and senior fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute.

A report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the birth rate for teens aged 15 to 19 increased by about 1 percent from 41.9 births per 1,000 in 2006 to 42.5 in 2007. In 2006, the birth rate jumped 3.4 percent, reversing a 14-year decline.

Researchers are waiting another year before seeing if there is a clear trend.

Childbearing among unmarried women aged 15-44 increased by 4 percent to historic levels in 2007. An estimated 1.7 million babies were born to unmarried women, accounting for 39.7 percent of all births in the United States.

Birth rates for younger teens and pre-teens aged 10-14, meanwhile, remained the same in 2007.

The latest report has again fueled intense debate over federal funding for sex education programs. Opponents of abstinence-only education say the findings provide new evidence against the approach and that federal funding should be pulled.

"The United States can no longer afford to fund failed abstinence-only programs," said James Wagoner of the group Advocates for Youth, according to The Washington Post.

But Crouse of Beverly LaHaye Institute argues that federal funding should be cut from promoting comprehensive sex education.

"Everybody needs to call their Members of Congress to express outrage at the amount of money going to Planned Parenthood and other groups that are promoting comprehensive sex education and spreading falsehoods about the effectiveness of abstinence programs," Crouse said in a statement. "We need to quit funding groups who give out false information that leaves our teens vulnerable in ways that affect the rest of their lives."

Studies by the Guttmacher Institute and Planned Parenthood Federation of America have concluded that abstinence-only programs are ineffective.

But pro-life groups have dismissed the studies as biased and skewed.

What's ineffective, according to Crouse, is the focus on condoms.

"When leftist ideology leaves so many of our teens pregnant, parents must speak out to the nation's policymakers to demand that our vulnerable young people have the opportunity to hear the truth," she said.

Lori Cole, executive director of the Eagle Forum, believes comprehensive sex education sends a confusing message to teens.

"We believe it's an inconsistent message," Cole said, according to MSNBC . "If you say, 'don't do it, it's not healthy for you, but if you're going to do it, do it this way,' that sends mixed signals to kids."

The report comes a month after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's 18-year-old daughter, Bristol Palin, drew a media storm over her comments on abstinence.

The teen mother, whose engagement to marry Levi Johnston was recently called off, told Fox News that abstinence is the best option but also stated that "it is not realistic at all."

Abstinence is not realistic because premarital sex has become more acceptable among teenagers nowadays, she explained.

In hopes of changing that, Palin said she wants to share her story to help others see that it's much easier to wait.

Crouse, meanwhile believes abstinence until marriage is "possible" and "desirable."

"Abstinence programs teach our teenagers self-control and help them gain self-respect," she said. "They learn how to say 'no' and they learn to set goals for a bright and promising future."

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