In October, Statistics Canada released a report suggesting that teen pregnancy rates from 2001 are down a third from rates in 1974. The study also suggested that not only are fewer teens getting pregnant, but also many Canadian women are waiting until their careers are in place before starting families.

Statistics Canada reported that in 2001, the teen pregnancy rate was 30.6 pregnancies for every 1,000 women, compared to 45.5 for every 1,000 in 1974. Pregnancy statistics are based on counts of live births, induced abortions and fetal loss (stillbirths and hospital reports of miscarriage).

The Canadian Press reported, “Those who deal with teenage sexuality were not surprised by the study.” Annette Johns, executive director of Planned Parenthood for Newfoundland and Labrador, said, “We have been noticing the trend that teenage pregnancy rates have been dropping … and it’s not because abortion rates are going up, so that tells us truly that the teen pregnancy rate is going down in the country.” Johns further claimed, “Access to sexual-health information and services has played a large part in rolling back the number of teen pregnancies.”

Contrary to what Johns stated, however, Toronto Right to Life director Natalie Hudson said there has been a slight increase in abortion rates for all ages between 2000 and 2001, from 105,427 induced abortions in 2000 to 106,418 in 2001. “Even if it is true that the incidence of teen pregnancy has decreased, it is not cause for joy. We must remember that many teens use other means, such as the morning-after pill and other forms of chemical abortions,” she said.

Gillian Long, director of research at Campaign Life Coalition, commented along similar lines. “There is a current widespread use of birth control, and many other forms of abortion, that some teens are not even aware they are using. It is difficult to estimate the numbers of actual teen pregnancies because it is so difficult to estimate the numbers of teen abortions.” Long also stated that it is hard to report the truth on this issue because the numbers are out of date. The most current data the public has access to is from 2001.

Hudson, whose organization works with teenage sexuality issues, remarked that she has not observed a change in teenage attitudes and behaviours towards premarital sex. “I have not seen a trend change in these issues. In today’s society, sex and love are for enjoyment and nothing more. Many teens, after having gotten themselves into the routine of premarital sex, find it difficult to commit to a spouse and begin a family. They do not fully grasp what a family is. It is sad that our society does not have the number of babies it should.”

Statistics Canada found that the pregnancy rate of women in their 30s is increasing. The report showed that over the period from 1974 to 2001, the pregnancy rate for women in their 30s went up by more than a third.

The Canadian Press spun this as an anti-marriage angle, quoting women in their 30s who said that waiting until that age “is a really positive thing” and is less “selfish.” One woman remarked that women’s mid-life crises “could have been avoided if they took time to discover who they were before embarking on a family.”

CLC’s Long responded to this line of thinking: “It is well known in the medical community that fertility decreases as you age, even in your 30s. This leads to disappointment for couples who wait to start a family – the later (a woman) waits, the worse it is for her health. The so-called feminist idea that you should wait until you’re older hurts women, and it is only just becoming obvious.”