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Today’s number: 57 percent

Friday, Aug 22, 2014

* Slate

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains in a report this week, the teen birth rate has nosedived 57 percent since 1991. The total number of children born to adolescent mothers is lower today than it was in 1950, when the country was a bit less than half the size it is today.

* Several theories have emerged to explain this phenomenon, including the country’s economic problems, but the CDC believes it’s due to increased contraception use

For its part, the CDC cites one telling paper from the American Journal of Public Health. Using government survey data on adolescent sexual behavior, it concluded that 86 percent of the decline in teen pregnancy between 1995 and 2002 could be chalked up to increased contraception use; the other 14 percent was due to abstinence. “The decline in U.S. adolescent pregnancy rates appears to be following the patterns observed in other developed countries, where improved contraceptive use has been the primary determinant of declining rates,” the researchers wrote.

* More

Teen mothers are especially likely to use safety-net programs like Medicaid and WIC (which provides food for new moms and their infants), so as their numbers have shrunk, taxpayers have saved money. The CDC cites survey research by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which estimated that federal, state, and local governments avoided spending $12 billion in 2010, thanks to the post-1991 drop.

* Which leads us to this development

Medicaid patients in Illinois could gain increased access to contraception under policy changes proposed Wednesday by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Health care providers would receive more money for providing vasectomies to men and birth control to women under the proposal, which also includes a possible new referral requirement for Roman Catholic providers and others that object to contraception. […]

Unplanned pregnancies constitute a major cost among the approximately 1 million women of childbearing age enrolled in Medicaid in Illinois, Hamos said. […]

Expanded family planning has succeeded at saving money in other states, Hamos said, citing a Colorado initiative that she said cut teen birthrates by 40 percent from 2009 through 2013, reduced abortions and saved the state $42.5 million in 2010.

I’d really like to see the state avoid yet another fight with the Catholics, however.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anon - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    Our friends on the religious right have to decide whether they prefer lower safety net costs due to fewer teen pregnancies or to oppose teen access to contraception.

  2. - Nearly Normal - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    Catholics use birth control. They just don’t talk about it. FYI, I am a Catholic as are many of my friends.

  3. - Been There - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    ===citing a Colorado initiative that she said cut teen birthrates by 40 percent from 2009 through 2013, reduced abortions===
    To this disenfranchised Catholic this is one example of the hypocrisy of the church that has made me wander away. You would think any way to cut down on the number of abortions would be the number one primary goal of the church (or anyone for that matter). But they stick to their dogma and in the long run more babies are aborted. While instead, if the use of contraceptives were encouraged there would be less.
    Go figure.

  4. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 10:45 am:

    Contraception is key to these numbers. And many Catholics do use birth control.

    But it makes no sense to pick another fight with your friends at this point. Social service providers help ease the state’s burden, and such a requirement would publicly back them into a corner and require them to vigorously fight it.

    DHFS has their hands full with some major challenges serving the public. Diverting time, energy and resources at this point to a fight like this could do more harm than good.

  5. - mcb - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 10:46 am:

    I’d like to see the 1950-to-now comparison just on unwed pregnancies. I’d bet a significant chunk of the drop comes from the fact that it’s no longer for women to marry and start a family while a teenager. Plus, those who do marry often have kids at later ages now.
    Not challenging the idea that contraceptives have helped, I’m just betting there’s more to the data. From my own eyes, I feel like in poor areas, pregnancy rates probably are still pretty high, if not higher(especially unwed). If the plan gets contraceptives to those areas and gets women to use them, now we’re talking.
    I’ve always thought a requirement to use them should be part of welfare, medicaid, and food stamps. The Catholics would never let that happen though.

  6. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 10:55 am:

    Anyone have updates of what’s going on at IDoT DTS today? Are they gonna layoff 1/3 of that division today? Gotta be a lot of worried folks.

  7. - Demoralized - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:14 am:

    I’ve never understood the opposition to contraception and other means to prevent pregnancies. It seems that we would want to do as much as possible to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It would reduce the number of abortions I would think. The answer cannot simply be abstinence if for no other reason than that message doesn’t work. We need to be practical and contraception and other preventative measures are practical.

  8. - Responsa - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:17 am:

    ==Our friends on the religious right have to decide==

    This is exactly the sort of unfocused, non-specific and somewhat incendiary phrase I am talking about that doesn’t work or help to convince, Anon. And, BTW, many Catholics are Democrats and so don’t necessarily fall under the “religious right” banner, either.

  9. - Just Observing - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    === I’d bet a significant chunk of the drop comes from the fact that it’s no longer for women to marry and start a family while a teenager. ===

    I had the exact same thought. Again, like you said, that doesn’t mean contraceptives and education haven’t helped.

  10. - dupage dan - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:37 am:

    I thought we had to subsidize birth control to facilitate more access by folks in need. Could we be wrong about that?

    Abortion rates are dropping as well. These are all good things.

  11. - Colossus - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    Just this week James Woods, a Congressional candidate in AZ, was in the news for a letter he sent to pro-life groups asking for surveys (which he filled out in support of the right to seek an abortion). He also included condoms with Prevent Abortion - Woods 2014 printed on them.

    The letter reads:
    “Thank you for taking the time to write to me about your anti-abortion stance. While I cannot support policies that jeopardize the health and stability of women and their families, there are many measures I do support that are proven to quickly enhance the well-being of women - and to significantly reduce abortion. These proven, pro-family, pro-woman initiatives include: promoting sexually healthy, knowledgeably and responsible communities beginning in our K-12 schools; expanding publicly supported family planning services including universally accessible birth control for all women; and strengthening government empowerment programs for low-income women and their children.

    I look forward to working with you to promote policies like these that support our families - and that quickly, safely and dramatically reduce abortion.”

    Can you imagine any currently elected official in Illinois responding in such a tactful manner?

    You can see the condoms here:
    And read the whole letter here:

  12. - Ahoy! - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 11:56 am:

    –I’d really like to see the state avoid yet another fight with the Catholics, however.–

    Than the Catholic Church needs to stop being ridiculous. This is a good program, for individuals and taxpayers. It’s also a good program to reduce abortions as better access to birth control reduces rates of abortion, something you would think the Catholic Church can get behind.

  13. - Federalist - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 12:22 pm:

    To me, this is good news. However, the illegitimacy rates are beyond belief- over 73% for Blacks, 53% for Hispanics, 29% for Whites and 16% for Asians.

    This is a disaster for the nation yet you see no leadership from any political or social power base that is willing to come out and address this issue.

    As far as the contraceptives, I approve of this proposal wholeheartedly. The Catholic Church has a right to engage in the discussion and then they should be ignored. Their leadership has enough problems of their own that need to be addressed.

    The area that most concerns me is providing contraception to those under age 18 without parental consent. One part of me says go ahead, it would probably be best. But for many of us who have had children we are not fond of the idea of our children being able to go around us and using the government to do so. After all, we are repeatedly told that we are legally responsible when they are minors.

  14. - wordslinger - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 2:07 pm:

    –However, the illegitimacy rates are beyond belief–

    You can stick your “illegitimate,” cousin.

    The emancipation of women and children is the ballgame for Planet Earth. Access to contraception is a big part of that.

    It’s trite but true: if fat old white dudes could get knocked up, it wouldn’t be an issue to anyone.

  15. - Anonymous - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 2:31 pm:

    I’d like to see the Catholics and others opposed to contraception avoid another fight with the states. This is a losing issue for Republicans.

  16. - Formerly Known As... - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 2:42 pm:

    mcb & Just Observing, you may be on to something.

    From this May

    == In 2012, there were more than nine times as many first births to women over age 35 than in the 1970s
    The first birth rate for women aged 40–44 has more than doubled since 1990 ==

  17. - Lady - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 2:53 pm:

    The issue is about whether women have access to birth control under the Medicaid program. The answer is yes. It is important that women are not denied this access just because one religious organization opposes it. Providers should not become Medicaid providers if they want to pick and choose what type of health care they will provide. All Medicaid clients deserve full access to coverage provided under the Medicaid Plan.

  18. - Federalist - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 3:13 pm:


    “You can stick your “illegitimate,” cousin.”

    Very nice. And where do you want me to stick “my” illegitimate cousin?

  19. - Quiet Sage - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 4:18 pm:

    We are talking here about health care benefits under a publicly administered health care plan. The Hobby Lobby decision, which involved private employee group health coverage, has no relevance here. There is no Constitutional justification for carving out an exclusion for contraception. Contraception, unlike arguably abortion, involves no deprivation or harm to human life. Furthermore, it provides a medical benefit to some covered individuals who may thereby be able to avert medically dangerous pregnancies. Opponents to contraceptive coverage under Medicaid would be arguing a purely theological position that has no place in the public realm.

  20. - Kakistocracy Kid - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 4:29 pm:

    Whatever happened to the Sex Respect program? That surely contributed to the 14% abstinence rate; at least that’s what they’ll claim.

  21. - DuPage Dave - Friday, Aug 22, 14 @ 6:37 pm:

    In the late 60s I was a high schooler working at a low-end catering service in the western suburbs. The business subsisted almost entirely on weddings where the bride was pregnant. With the lower pregnancy rate and even lower marriage rate, I doubt that business model would work these days.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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