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Study: MN Teen Birth On Rise Due To Less Contraceptive Use

July 20, 2009

ST. PAUL, Minn. - After a dozen years of decline in teen birth rates, evidence shows a recent rise in that rate across the country and in Minnesota. Results of a new study indicate that the rise is not necessarily because of increased levels of sexual activity, but rather, a reduced use of contraceptives – specifically condoms. The study (by Dr. John Santelli of Columbia University in conjunction with researchers at Guttmacher Institute) is putting abstinence-only sex-education programs under scrutiny.

Brigid Riley, executive director of the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting (MOAPPP), says a decade of faith-inspired curricula and an increased focus on abstinence are sending conflicting messages to teens.

"Adolescents need a lot of information; they need good-quality education about preventing, not just pregnancy, but HIV and other STIs, because those rates are going up as well."

The study also questions whether an increased focus on abstinence instead of education is leading to the increased birth rates, an issue that is highly charged on both sides of the debate.

Riley says parents are the best educators for teenagers, and she says MOAPPP is working hard to help schools deliver a message about safe sex in a science-based way. But she says it's an effort that needs widespread involvement.

"We also think that faith communities have a role to play, and other community organizations; we really think that young people need to get this information from more than one place."

Riley says Minnesota had a six percent increase in teen pregnancies in 2006, followed by another two percent jump in 2007.

The report anticipates further increases in teenage pregnancy. Federal funding for abstinence-only programs increased from nine million dollars a year in 1997 to 176 million dollars in 2007.

Study information is available online at:

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN