The Guttmacher Institute (a pro-abortion research outfit) has released a report stating that teen pregnancy rates are rising and they speculate that the reason for this is abstinence education is failing. The Washington Post and Reuters both have stories on the report that also question the focus on abstinence in sex-ed. The GI press release says that in the years following a focus on abstinence-only education, teen pregnancy rates have shot up; the media has bought that argument hook, line and sinker, so congratulations to the Guttmacher Institute for successfully framing the debate on their terms. That is what activist groups should do and they’ve done it, albeit with a sympathetic media.

A little perspective is in order. The increase come after the steep decline (41%) in teen pregnancy from 1990 to 2005 which since has held steady for the past half decade. The increase is not very large: a 3% in total, with a 4% increase in births to teenage girls and a 1% increase in abortions. Not to condone teenage pregnancy, but those numbers are modest. Furthermore, it is too early to tell whether this is part of a trend or merely a statistical blip. The numbers do not justify the outrage and urgency from some quarters, such as this reported in the Washington Post:

“One of the nation’s shining success stories of the past two decades is in danger of unraveling,” said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “Clearly, the nation’s collective efforts to convince teens to postpone childbearing must be more creative and more intense, and they must begin today.”

It goes without saying that it would better that the teen pregnancy rate decrease than increase, but a 3% increase in one year hardly indicates that the positive trend of the past two decades is “unraveling” nor does it warrant a reaction as immediate and urgent as the need for humanitarian relief in Haiti.

The hand-wringing from the Guttmacher Institute and National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is a transparent attempt to get more money for contraception. Both are long-time critics of abstinence education; the former is connected to Planned Parenthood, the latter is committed to “responsible policies that will increase the use of contraception.” Guttmacher reports that between 1991 and 2005, the teen abortion rate fell 56%. Jill Stanek notes today that more people are pro-life, especially among the youth. The Guttmacher Institute’s allies at Planned Parenthood need something to sell and since many young people aren’t buying abortion, they have to peddle contraception (often at government expense).