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Minnesota Teen Birth Rate Drops

December 23, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The teen birth rate in Minnesota has dropped, and it's part of a national trend. According to a report just released by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the national teen birth rate dropped 6 percent, hitting a new historic low: 39.1 births per thousand teenagers in 2009. In Minnesota, the rate dropped 7 percent.

Brigid Riley, executive director of the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting, is elated.

"It's great news. Young people are making really good choices for themselves and thinking a little longer and harder about becoming parents."

She attributes the decline to the use of contraception, teens waiting longer before becoming sexually active, and the expansion of family planning programming in the country.

Riley adds that parents have a far greater effect on young people than they think.

"In fact, teenagers tell us that parents have the most influence about their decisions about sex - far more than their friends or television or anybody else. That's a wake-up call for parents to listen and look for those opportunities when they can have honest and open conversations, which are something teenagers really wish they could have more of with their parents."

Riley says teens need hope for the future and the ability to see a path for themselves that does not include parenthood so early in life. She adds that they also need good-quality sex education and access to confidential health services.

"When schools, faith communities and after-school programs are offering those things, young people wait longer to become sexually active, they have fewer partners and they are more likely to use condoms and contraception effectively."

She cautions against the urge to relax teen pregnancy prevention efforts, however.

"We have a tendency in our society to sort of take a deep breath and say 'Whew, we solved that problem.' But you know what, there's a new crop of 13-year-olds every year. There is no time for complacency. We need to make sure that young people are getting what they need from the places they're interacting with."

She adds that while the teen birth rate has dropped in Minnesota, the rate of sexually transmitted diseases has gone up. Currently, the state has no statewide instruction standards, no dedicated funding for sex education and no health requirement for graduation.

The CDC report is available at www.cdc.gov.



Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN