By KELSEY PINAULT
School of Communication
University of Miami
Teenage pregnancy has been in public debates for decades.
It is a concern among parents, religious groups, policymakers and doctors alike. The debate over abortion arises and many worry about the health detriments to those who get pregnant as young as 15.
Regardless of the concern, studies done by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Guttmacher Institute and other centers show that nationally as well as on state levels, pregnancies among girls age 15 to 19 have hit two peak highs in the past 35 years.
Research on this touchy subject gained momentum starting in 1970. Studies conducted at a national level show that Florida is a main contender as one of the states’ with a high teenage pregnancy rate. Although Florida is not currently in the top 10 states with the highest teenage pregnancy rates, it is still considered to be a state with a “significantly higher than the U.S. rate.”
Teenage pregnancies rates in different states differ depending on the number of adolescences in the population, however many states still reflect the races of women to be a factor in the numbers.
In 2005, teenage pregnancies across the states hit a peak high after a steady decrease from its earlier peak in 1990. This statistic is represented at a state level for Florida, which was ranked as the state with the 12th-highest teenage pregnancy rate.
During 2005, Florida teenagers ages 15-19 had a pregnancy rate of 77 per 1,000 women while the U.S. total pregnancy rate was lower at 70 per 1,000 women.
Only eight states had a pregnancy rate higher than Florida at this time, the highest being a rate of 165 per 1,000 women in the District of Columbia. States such as California, New York, and North Carolina had similar or the same pregnancy rate as Florida in 2005.
Aside from residence, race seems to also play a factor in teenage pregnancies. This is an important dynamic to consider because many studies on different states or of the United States as a whole show that certain races almost always have higher pregnancy rates than others.
A study by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that, in the United States, Hispanic teenagers (age 15-19) have the highest pregnancy rates at 81.8, while White non-Hispanic teenage girls have the least at 27.2, with Black non-Hispanic girls in the middle at 64.2 per 1,000 women in 2007.
Inconsistent with national findings in 2007, Florida had the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Black non-Hispanic girls at 67.9 per 1,000 followed by a pregnancy rate of 62.1 per 1,000 for Hispanic girls. The rate for pregnancies among White non-Hispanic teenagers was less than half of that of the Black non-Hispanic and Hispanic teenagers at 30.8 per 1,000.
“Rates have declined among all groups of teens over the long-term, and increased among all groups in 2006, but are still substantially higher among black and Hispanic teens than among white non-Hispanics,” said Rebecca Wind, senior Communications Associate of the Guttmacher Institute of New York for more than 10 years.
Founded in 1968, Guttmacher Institute was originally formed as a division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 1947, the institute became an independent, non-profit organization committed to finding information on sexual and reproductive health. GI recently conducted an in-depth survey analyzing pregnancies, births and abortions in the U.S. at a national and state level while focusing on race and ethnicity trends from 1972 to 2006.
The data used in this survey as well as others conducted by the center is gathered from researchers focusing on the field being studied.
Some people in the United States wonder if the explosion of celebrity teen parents has anything to do with the recent peak highs after so many years of decreasing numbers.
“There have been no studies directly linking current media portrayals of teen pregnancy to increasing teen pregnancy rates; however, there is less social stigma around teen childbearing than there was even 10 years ago, and celebrities make being a teen parent seem easy, which may not encourage teens to become pregnant, but certainly does not encourage them not to,” said Wind, who was one of the researchers at Guttmacher Institute working on the main study on U.S. teenage pregnancies.
Although there is still no definite explanation for the sudden increase in teenage pregnancies, the numbers reflected in races help explain that some of it has to do with education and awareness. Many of the females in the situation are those of races who are often offered less education.
“Lack of educational or employment aspirations, lack of access to health care and contraceptive services, inadequate sex education and a variety of other factors are all part of teens’ declining use of contraception and increasing pregnancy rates,” said Wind.