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Birth Rates vs. Pregnancy Rates

04/14/2012 Comments (44)

The birth rate is a very different thing than the pregnancy rate. But many are happy to pretend they're the same when convenient. Here's one such good example which was pointed out by Students for Life:

In a new report, the CDC has released figures showing that the U.S. teen (ages 15-19) birth rate has dropped to an all-time low. In the release, the CDC claimed that this drop is due to a combination of “strong pregnancy prevention messages…as well as an increase in contraception use.”  Also cited as a reason why birth rates declined was the economic recession, similar to the Pew Foundation’s findings earlier this year which cited the recession as a cause for a lower birth rate for women overall.

Today, pro-contraception sex education advocates were quick to claim these CDC figures were proof that contraception based sex education is working. However, while the birth rate has fallen, it must be made clear that the CDC is looking at the birth rate and not the pregnancy rate in teens.  Alarmingly, as the birthrate has fallen in teens ages 15-19 (from 41.5 per 1,000 in 2008 to 34.3 per 1,000 in 2010), the abortion rate has increased (from 17.8 per 1,000 in 2008 to 19 per 1,000 in 2010). [source: Students for Life]

The article goes on to point out that the data does not give conclusive evidence of the real cause of the decreasing teen birth rate (although we can speculate). So both sides should be cautious in claiming any kind of cause for it without more information.

One thing we do know is that the pregnancy rate is an entirely different thing than the birth rate. It's also just as (if not in some ways more) important. So it's important not to get them confused. Pregnancy (and actually just prior to it) involves a new, individual, unique, self-directing human life. And the proliferation and increased access to things like "Plan B" (an emergency "contraception" that may also work as an abortifacient) and other drugs like RU486 that allow a mother to end the life of her new baby "privately," is making it easy to lower birth rates while at the same time making it very difficult to really know an accurate pregnancy rate.

For those only interested in lowering birth rates, lots of contraception (which arguably hasn't lowered unwanted pregnancy rates) and access to convenient abortions that nobody can ever know about (i.e. for when your contraception inevitably fails) are a "great" solution. It's pretty simple. If you end the life of more babies before they can be born, the birth rate is going to go down. And advocates of this incomplete approach will inevitably cherry-pick such stats that support some kind of "success" in this regard, while disregarding the more fundamental issue — pregnancy rates.

But if we really care about the least among us. If we really care about the dignity of every human life. Then it starts with pregnancy rates (and ultimately conception rates). And that, my friends, is a very different thing. Lowering unwanted pregnancy rates is very different than simply lowering birth rates. And it requires very different (yet fairly obvious) solutions that aren't as convenient for us as simply lowering the unwanted birth rate. But for a culture who's lost it's sexual way, such solutions are hard to accept. 

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About Matthew Warner

Matthew Warner
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Matthew Warner is a lover of God, his wife, his kids, his life, cookies, hot-buttered bread, snoozin' & awkward (as well as not awkward) silence. He is the founder and CEO of Flocknote, the creator of Tweet Catholic, a contributing author to The Church and New Media book, and writer/founder at The Radical Life. Matt has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M and an M.B.A. in Entrepreneurship. He and his family hang their hats in Texas.