Youth Get the Credit for Better Education and Contraception
Racial inequalities still exist among the Commonwealth’s marginalized communities, youth of color, youth in foster care and LGBTQ teens
Boston (August 11, 2014) – The Massachusetts teen birth rate for 2012 is the lowest ever recorded in the state, and 50% below the US teen birth rate, according to data released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health today. The 2012 teen birth rate of 14.0 per 1,000 teen girls reflects a more than 50% decline since a peak of 35.9 in 1989.
“Youth behavior data shows that rates of sexual activity have not changed significantly, so it appears that much of the decline in teen birth rates can be attributed to increased youth access to shame-free medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education and contraception,” said Brenda Madura, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy (the Alliance).
2012 teen birth data are available for certain communities with higher teen birth rates or larger numbers of births to teens.
“The Alliance is particularly pleased to see impressive declines in the teen birth rate in Springfield and Holyoke,” said Madura, where the Alliance has been part of a multi-year community based approach, Youth First, to reduce unintended teen pregnancy.
Although Massachusetts has experienced a reduction in the state’s teen birth rate, there is still a significant disparity in this reduction across the Commonwealth. Black and Latino young people, youth involved in foster care, and those who identify as LGBTQ often experience higher rates of teen births. There are geographic disparities as well -youth from cities, such as Holyoke, Springfield and Chelsea, among others, experience higher teen birth rates.
“To address these disparities,” said Madura, “decision makers need to invest in strategies that address the social determinants of sexual and reproductive health and rights. If we are truly committed to decreasing teen births and increasing access to power and resources for teens and young parents, then we need to continue to build environments that enable decision-making about relationships, sex, and life with self-determination.”
Ciara Mejia, a young parent policy fellow with the Alliance adds: “As an advocate for young parents I have seen that people often shame and use scare tactics as a method to prevent teen pregnancy. Shame doesn’t prevent teen pregnancy, it’s the opposite of what young people need. Learning about reproductive health and effective, accurate sexual education is simply educating young people about facts—it’s not encouraging them to have sex.”