Regarding teen pregnancy, the
President’s recently-released budget proposal has many, many good
qualities. It emphasizes good science, encourages research and
innovation, and increases the overall investment in preventing too – early
pregnancy and parenthood.
In particular, it responds
powerfully and immediately to the recent news that the teen birth rate
is on the rise for the first time in 14 years, increasing 5% between
2005 and 2007. This increase has raised the sobering possibility
that one of the nation’s great success stories of the past two decades
is in danger of unraveling. The positive trends in teen sexual
activity and contraceptive use seem to be reversing and many states
are reporting increases in teen pregnancy rates.
President Obama’s budget
contains the first-ever significant funding for preventing teen pregnancy
prevention that is not dedicated to abstinence-only interventions.
At present, the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence supports
those interventions that both encourage teens to delay sexual activity
and that encourage sexually active teens to use contraception consistently
and carefully. During rough economic times and given the recent
increase in the teen birth rate, it is more important than ever that
precious public dollars be devoted to those interventions that have
evidence of success.
In short, in the ongoing battle
pitting abstinence interventions versus more comprehensive sex education
efforts, the President’s budget proposal is firmly on the side of
science. This is not at all surprising given statements by then-candidate
Barack Obama said on the campaign trail supporting programs based on science and evidence of
what works. What is being proposed for teen pregnancy prevention is
simply part of the President’s broader commitment to spending taxpayer
dollars on research, evaluation, innovation and proven interventions.
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Importantly, the President’s
proposal also sets aside money for what can fairly be described as research
and development. When it comes to preventing teen pregnancy, it
may be that the early wins have already been realized and that the nation’s
future efforts need to be more creative and more persistent to reach future declines. The President’s budget
proposal supports innovations that may help, such as developing interventions
for underserved groups such as kids in foster care and finding new ways
to use digital technology to reach teens directly.
And just to remind us all:
despite the 14 years of declines noted above, the United States has
the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the entire developed world-a
problem that makes a major contribution to child poverty, interrupts
much-needed education (so critical in this economy), is closely associated
with single parenthood and father-absence, and jeopardizes the overall
health and development of the children involved. Reducing teen
pregnancy remains a critical cause.
Bravo President Obama. No caveats,