According to data released last year from the state’s health department, California’s teen birthrate has dropped to its lowest level in 20 years, with the current rate being at 28 births for every 1,000 teenage girls.
The data shows a 60 percent drop since 1991, when the rate peaked at 70.9 births for every 1,000 girls. Public health experts directly attribute the encouraging news to state laws that require California public schools to offer comprehensive sex education classes — along with accurate information about birth control. State officials also praised family planning programs that provide community-based resources to teens.
Latinas, age 15 to 19, continued to have the highest birthrate at a little more than 42 children for every 1,000 teenagers, but that was still a drop from 1991 when Latinas had about 74 births for every 1,000 girls.
For black teenagers, the number of births went down from 51.8 to 34.1; white teens from 20.1 to 11.2; and Asian teens from 13.9 to 5.3.
Teen birthrates are plummeting throughout the nation as a whole to record-low levels, largely because teens are gaining better access to contraception.
But this kind of progress is lagging behind in the South, where teens are still being exposed to the proven-ineffective “abstinence education” — a method endorsed by social conservatives and the religious right.
Texas, whose legislature recently passed the most extreme restrictions on abortion in the country, still promotes abstinence education as a means to prevent teen pregnancy. The Lone Star State currently has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country.