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Wyoming Teen Birth Rate Shrinks as Access to Sex Education Grows

Teddy Wilson

The state's teen birth rate has decreased for six consecutive years, and state officials cite access to sex education and reproductive health care as the primary reasons for the steady progress.

Wyoming’s teen birth rate has decreased for six consecutive years, and state officials cite access to sex education and reproductive health care as the primary reasons for the steady progress.

In 2013 there were 30.2 births per 1,000 girls from the ages of 15 to 19, which is down from a high of 50.1 births in 2007, according to a state report. The birth rate has dropped steadily between 3 and 4 percent every year, with the exception of a 0.5 percent drop between 2011 and 2012.

Ashley Busacker, senior epidemiology adviser for maternal and child health at the Wyoming Department of Health, told the Associated Press that education and access were the keys to the continued decline. “A willingness to educate teens about services and reproductive health services is critical,” Busacker told the AP.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Personal Responsibility Education Program, which provides grants to state agencies for education on contraception, preventing unplanned pregnancies, and preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections. The program is aimed at youth ages 10 to 19.

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Linda Thyfault told Wyoming Public Media that the sex education taught at the Laramie County Health Department’s Title X clinic has contributed to the falling teen birth rates.

“They get information on all the birth control methods, we talk about STDs, we talk about how to access services at the clinic, we talk about postponing sexual activity, the importance of abstinence, and the importance of them being the person to make the decision,” Thyfualt said.

Clinics like Thyfault’s may be the only place that some of the state’s teens receive sex education, as Wyoming is one of 28 other states that do not require public schools to teach sex education.

A Wyoming Department of Health report released in June examined the trends in the state’s teen birth rate from 2004 to 2012. The report showed racial disparities as well as county disparities in the birth rate, but by all measures the birth rate has trended down over the past six years.

Colorado reported a similar reduction this year. Teen birth rates dropped 40 percent over five years in the state. That reduction in teen birth rates was credited to increased access to reproductive health care–providing long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) through family planning clinics in the state.

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