George W. Bush, as US President, was a big advocate of abstinence as the best form of preventing unwanted teenage pregnancies, so Tony Abbott is certainly not politically alone in putting an emphasis on the virtues of preserving virginity. What will not become clear in Australia for a few years yet is whether the Abbott influence will have the same consequences as some are now arguing Bush’s has had in the United States.
A just-released report from the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit group that studies reproductive and sexual health, shows the teen pregnancy rate in the US rose 3% in 2006, the first increase in more than a decade. Preliminary data on births for 2007 showa further increase in the birthrate among all women, including teenagers and those aged 20–24.
While conceding that it is too soon to tell whether the reversal is simply a short-term fluctuation, a more lasting stabilisation or the beginning of a longer-term increase, the report notes that other research points to “the growth of abstinence-only sex education programs at the expense of comprehensive programs”.
Guttmacher’s Lawrence Finer told USA Today that “the focus on abstinence and the shifts in pregnancy occurred about the same time”.