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Teen Pregnancies Up After Decade of Decline; AZ Rate Stays High

January 28, 2010

PHOENIX - Arizona has the third-highest teenage pregnancy rate in the nation, according to a new study from the non-partisan Alan Guttmacher Institute. The study also shows the national teen pregnancy rate starting to rise again after ten years of decline. In Arizona, sex education programs are voluntary for school districts.

Christy Moore, member programs coordinator for the Arizona chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, says at least part of the solution would be comprehensive sex education, which she believes would lead to fewer pregnancies and healthier young people.

"Teens aren't taught proper methods for practicing safe sex, which not only puts them in jeopardy of becoming pregnant, but also in jeopardy of contracting a sexually-transmitted infection."

However, backers of abstinence-only sex education say the findings show the need to continue encouraging delayed sexual activity.

Because of state and federal funding, Michelle Steinberg public policy director for Planned Parenthood Arizona, complians that most Arizona schools that provide sex education programs concentrate on abstinence.

"Because funding was provided and it was sort of the path of least resistance, it made life easier for school districts to just promote abstinence. Unfortunately, what that does is deprive young people of essential health information."

Although Arizona's national ranking for teen pregnancies has improved slightly since the previous Guttmacher Institute report in 2006, Steinberg says total pregnancies are still rising.

"We went from being second in the nation to third in the nation, but in Arizona, the number of teen pregnancies has risen. So, we went from approximately 14,000 a year to 18,000 a year."

A bill introduced in the Arizona House of Representatives would require every school to provide a medically-accurate, comprehensive sex education program.

The report is available at www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ