In her Nov. 15 letter to the editor, Mary Lake makes several false claims about teen pregnancy, contraception and abortion. I’d like to set the record straight.
Lake’s erroneous claim that “When teenagers have readily available contraceptives, the number of pregnancies increases” is easily dispelled. In 2008, the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate reached its lowest point in more than 30 years, down 42 percent from its peak in 1990.
Better contraceptive use was the main driver of this decline. Indeed, almost the entire decline between 1995 and 2002 among 18- to 19-year-olds was due to increased contraceptive use. Among those aged 15-17, about one-quarter was attributable to reduced sexual activity, and three-quarters to increased contraceptive use.
In short, access to contraception is key to reducing teen pregnancy, and so is access to comprehensive sexuality education. A substantial number of comprehensive sex education programs have proven effective in delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or other contraceptive use.
Lake also wrongly attributes to the Guttmacher Institute the claim — itself false — that abortion providers “target” African-American and Hispanic women. In reality, disproportionately high abortion rates among women of color are the direct result of their higher rates of unintended pregnancy, which in turn reflect pervasive health, economic and social inequalities.
Antiabortion activists ignore these systemic inequities and instead cynically accuse abortion providers of targeting minority women. In fact, only two out of 10 abortion clinics are located in predominantly African-American or Hispanic neighborhoods. More than six out of 10 are in majority-white neighborhoods.
Rather than promoting misinformation and bogus conspiracy theories, let’s focus on making comprehensive sex education and affordable contraceptive services universally available. Doing so will empower people from all walks of life to decide for themselves whether and when to have children.