Teen pregnancies down by a third, study says

  • June 4, 2010
teen motherTORONTO - Increased use of birth control and improved sex education in schools may be keys to a 10-year decline in Canada’s teen birth and abortion rate, according to a new study by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada.

Canada’s teen birth and abortion rate fell by 36.9 per cent from 1996 to 2006, said the study published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. The study used Statistics Canada figures. The United States saw a drop of 25 per cent compared to 4.75 for England and Wales and a 19.1-per-cent jump for Sweden, according to the study.

Canada had the lowest teen birth/abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in 2006 at 27.9 per cent, down from 44.2 per 1,000 women in 1996.  

Alex McKay, one of the study’s authors, told The Catholic Register the findings reflect a trend among developed countries of lower teen birth/abortion rates. Over the last 10 to 15 years, there has been a slight decline in the percentage of young women who are sexually active, McKay said.

“You will also find that among young women who are sexually active, there has been an increase in contraceptive use,” he added.

According to McKay, other cultural factors could be at play.

“Generally speaking, I think it’s clear that young women who feel positive about their futures in terms of their educational and employment opportunity tend to delay child-bearing,” he said.

At Rosalie Hall in Toronto, a young parent resource centre, the demand for services has not fallen, said executive director Alan Nickell. Rosalie Hall provides health and social services to young single, pregnant women, their children and families. It also has outreach workers who go into schools and provide information about the realities of teen pregnancy.

Nickell said there could also be demographic factors which account for the lower rates. Demographically speaking, he said there has been a decline in the number of teens.

Campaign Life Coalition national organizer Mary Ellen Douglas said the study is glossing over the reality of abortion in Canada.

She said the real rate of abortions aren’t being taken into account because the morning-after pill isn’t included in the abortion count.

Douglas said she hopes the pro-life movement has also made an impact on the lower abortion rates among teens.

Poverty and lack of access to health care in the United States could be factors in the higher teen pregnancy rates compared to Canada, McKay said.

He added that approaches which appear to have been effective are those where teens are taught about other ways they can “protect their health” such as contraception instead of being told to only abstain.

But Douglas said chastity should be encouraged among teens instead of the use of birth control or contraception.

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