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Just days after Bristol Palin officially became the poster child for her mother's failed abstinence-only sex education policy, a new report from the CDC revealed that in 2006 Alaska experienced the nation's fastest growing teen birth rate.  While Mississippi suddenly surpassed Texas to earn the dubious leadership distinction, it comes as no surprise that the 10 worst performing states all voted for George W. Bush in 2004.

Overall, teen birth rates jumped in 26 states, combining to reverse a 15-year decline nationwide.  But as the AP reported, red states from the '04 Republican electoral map topped the charts:

Mississippi's rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006, according to new state statistics released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The teen birth rate for that year in Texas and New Mexico was more than 50 percent higher...

...The lowest teen birth rates continue to be in New England, where three states have rates at roughly half the national average, which is 42 births per 1,000 teen women.

While Mississippi's increase may or may not be a "statistical blip," it also suggests a cataclysmic failure of now-orthodox Republican social policies.  As ThinkProgress detailed, Mississippi is a leading "hotbed of abstinence education."  More disturbing, the state's draconian restrictions on abortion - including a mandatory requirement that patients must view an ultrasound image prior to receiving the procedure - have left th entire state of Mississippi with only one abortion clinic.

To be sure, partisan debate over the causes of the worrisome jump in teen births is contentious.  Republicans no doubt will point to higher rates among Democratic-leaning African-Americans and Hispanics to excuse the dismal performance in their home states.  Democrats will rightly point to the proven record of failure for abstinence-only education programs advocated by President Bush and GOP leaders nationwide.

And as the data consistently show, abstinence-only sex education programs simply don't work.  A recent report by researchers at Johns Hopkins showed that teenagers taking "virginity pledges" engage in the same gamut of sexual practices at virtually identical levels as non-pledgers, only with a much lower use of condoms and other forms of contraception.  In April 2007, a study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. of Princeton, N.J. for the U.S. Administration for Children and Families found that children who took part in abstinence-only programs became sexually active at about the same age and had as many sexual partners as those who participated in broader sex education classes. Despite spending 176 million dollars annually and 1.5 billion in the past decade on abstinence programs nationwide, the United States has recently experienced increasing rates of sexual transmitted diseases and pregnancy among teens. (The 3% jump in teen pregnancy rates is the first increase in 15 years.) It's no wonder that by June 2008, 22 states opted out of President Bush's abstinence education program and turned down millions of dollars of federal funding that came with it.

Other recent studies are consistent with the CDC's findings this week. In 2006, the Guttmacher Institute compiled data showing rates of teen pregnancy and lives births to teen mothers for each state. As it turns out, 9 of the 10 states with the highest teen pregnancy rates voted for Bush in 2004; all 10 with the highest rates of live births among women ages 15 to 19 are reliably Republican. (The Distrct of Columbia is a notable outlier.) Virtually all of them are among the 28 states which continue to receive federal funds for abstinence education. Conversely, 9 of the 10 states with the lowest rates of teen births voted Democratic in 2004; North Dakota was the only red state to crack the top 10. (Sarah Palin's home state of Alaska was in the middle of the pack at number 23.)

And as with so many measures of social pathology, teenage birth rates are highest in exactly those states that voted for George W. Bush in 2004.  Analyses over the past two years revealed that Red State America lags in health care, working conditions, and effectiveness of education systems.  Divorce and murder rates, too, are generally highest in the states Republicans call home.

Back in Alaska, Stephanie Birch, who directs maternal and child health programs for the state's Department of Health and Social Services, had this reaction to the grim CDC data:

Glowing media portrayals of celebrity pregnancies don't help, either, she said. "They make it out to be very glamorous," said Birch, who cited a calculation by Alaska officials that teen births were up 6 percent in that state in 2006.

If so, Birch must not have enjoyed the Republican National Convention, in which Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter Bristol and father-to-be Levi Johnston were used as props on stage.  But in perhaps her only public service on the issue, Governor Palin last week issued a statement after her grandson's birth that "we all at first looked at the situation with some fear and a bit of despair."  As for Bristol Palin, she urged others to practice what her own family only preached, "Teenagers need to prevent pregnancy to begin with - this isn't ideal."

Mercifully, when it comes to teenage birth dates, the news isn't all bad for the family values merchants and culture warriors of the Republican Party.  With Nevada and New Mexico voting for Barack Obama in 2008, some of those poor performing red states are turning blue.

** Crossposted at Perrspectives **

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 11:41 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  major breakthrough (6+ / 0-)

    bad information = big mistakes

    First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win - Gandhi

    by mysticlaker on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 11:44:06 AM PST

    •  Yeep. Educatiion is the key (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, BYw

      And the Southern Red states lead the nation in having the lowest education results.  Georgia leads the country in having the highest HS dropout rate. In spite of this, our Repub governor and Repub legislature have cut billions from education in the last several years. You reap what you sow.

      Obama would be perfect if he were a Cubs fan.

      by Georgia Liberal on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 06:58:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No education is the way to keep people in control (0+ / 0-)

        These are the people that hang on every word of Limbaugh and O'Reilly and vote for the Sarah Palins of the world. They have been taught to be comfortable with their ignorance.

        They are denied the ability to critically think about anything and are stewed in a culture of praising stupidity and viewing educated people as the "elites".

        Quite a vicious circle of stupidity, unfortunately. But this has to change if this country is to grow and prosper as a whole.

  •  But they WANT this. That's the unspoken part. (10+ / 0-)

    They WANT teen pregnancy of white, conservative teens because they're terrified about white people becoming the minority in this country in 20 years. It scares the shit out of them.

    •  It's not just that... (9+ / 0-)

      It also helps keep women 'in their place'-- dependent having kids and staying home.

    •  It may seem that way, but their abstinance-only (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clytemnestra, vernonbc, BYw, bucadibeppo

      education is taught to everyone.  It's actually part of their cannon-fodder plan; unless the teen mothers are from families with enough resources, it virtually guarantees continued poverty for many teen girls, especially with the undercutting of social services and skyrocketing cost of secondary schooling.

      •  Quiverfull (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt, BYw

        The movement to keep whites on top is disguised as a religious commitment, the "Quiverfull" movement, where hardcore Christian women including Sarah Palin promise to have as many children as possible to build up their ranks against the enemy.  The definition of the enemy is where the plausible deniability media game lurks.

        The Christian Right movement parades its African tokens like the witchhunter Thomas Muthee, but the game is to control America and its global power, and that can only realistically be done with the white vote.  Once elected into government their agents must be consistent and push abstinence-only education on everyone knowing it will fail.  The followers believe the End Times are coming anyway, but God gives you points for trying to enforce His will on sinners.

        Palin's public embrace of her daughter's pregnancy, though opportunistic, may have been the flipping of a switch on the issue of pregnant teens within Christian Right families.  If those families hoard all available babies regardless of provenance, while Christian Right state governments make sure the evil (coincidentially) black and Mexican babies starve, or must be adopted into the Movement families, they can boost their numbers for the final battle, whatever that's supposed to be.

    •  They also want a lot of kids with no hope so that (0+ / 0-)

      they will be the fodder of their wars that they certainly won't be sending their kids to fight.

  •  Hell, the Palins alone... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...nope, can't do it. Too easy.

    1/20/09: The Suck Stops Here

    by phenry on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 11:46:32 AM PST

  •  Dang, we have to start having sex liberally (4+ / 0-)

    The Republican brand: "Consequences, schmonsequences, as long as I'm rich"

    by D in Northern Virginia on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 11:48:16 AM PST

  •  Red states also have (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    enough, karmsy, BYw

    higher post-teen birthrates.

  •  Abstinence-Only Education (0+ / 0-)
    worked for me, right?
  •  NH lowest teen birth rate! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    EJP in Maine, BYw


  •  Its more about geograpy than politics... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Saying red states have higher teen birth rates may be true in some instances, but I think it is better to say states in the South and Appalachia have higher birth rates.  There are many red states that have low teen birth rates like those in the west.  

    •  Umm- ARE there any other "Red" states now? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      states in the South and Appalachia have higher birth rates.

      Geez, what's left? Outside the south, the GOP has the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska, and even some of those are growing purple at the edges.

      •  Well I live one of those red states you mention (0+ / 0-)

        and we have a pretty low teen birth rate.  So throwing all red states into the category of high teen birth rates is misleading.  Sorry for nitpicking but I hate my state being compared to the South.  Makes me quiver!  

    •  Exactly. New England has the lowest birth... (0+ / 0-)

      rates in the country across age groups.

      The teen birth rate to total statewide birth rate ratio also needs to be looked at too.

      Southern, mid western, and mountain west states are more fertile than New England across all age demographics.

    •  in addition to geography it is about income (0+ / 0-)

      and SES

  •  Maybe theat's what they mean by "family values".. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, BYw, terabthia2

    Typical Republican hypocracy. Pretty much used to it by now.

  •  This diary raises a really important topic. (10+ / 0-)

    Not so long ago, my home-town paper ran a first-person piece by a (chronologically) mature married woman contemplating having a third child, and trying to convince her husband this was a grand idea.

    What troubled me about the piece was its flippant tone. Yes, the writer made politically correct noises about the drain on planetary resources a third child would engender; she even provided links to the Voluntary Human Extinction movement. But in the final paragraph, she mentioned the Duggans, the religious Arkansas couple who have had 18 children, and she said something very close to, "If Michelle Duggan can have 18, why can't I have 3?"

    If you regard your fertility as your one all-important contribution to society, why not indeed?

    There is currently a grave problem with choices about reproduction in this culture, and it doesn't just affect young girls. It's about the de-valuation of women, such that a woman can only feel she is somebody important, when she's a mother. That's some incentive to breed right there. I'm arguing we have to do what we can to address that inequality, or our approach to the problem of teen pregnancy is incomplete.

  •  According to (5+ / 0-)

    this article, teen pregnancy has less to do with sex ed or abstinence ed than it does with poverty.  It's a far more complex question than we'd like to make it appear.

    When "stupidity" suffices, why search for any other reason?

    by wozzle on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 12:21:03 PM PST

  •  We want to keep causes and effects straight. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CA Berkeley WV

    Poverty, institutionalized White supremacy, a police state justice system, laughably--and tragically--ineffectual family and child care policies, these and many other factors are the clear causes of the higher teen birth rate in the South.  

    What is the relationship of all of this to Bush's predominance at the polls in the region.  Again, the precedent conditions are causal, not the other way around.  Just looking briefly at the incapacitation of voters in the region makes the direction of the vectors clear.

    "Social pathology" almost always emanates from social disparity; it is not a reason to blame but a basis for assessment of oppression.

    I bow to those who seek the truth; I flee from those who have 'found' it.

    by SERMCAP on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 12:22:41 PM PST

    •  Please elaborate on the "institutionalized... (0+ / 0-)

      White supremacy" and teen birth rates.

      •  I could write books about it. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Here's a simple illustration.  Georgia's legislative and administrative and judicial apparatuses constantly focus inequitably on poor people, especially on poor Black people.  Specifically, we might consider the example of schools.  The legislature in Georgia has given big tax credits to White fundamentalist home schoolers, it has promulgated 'tickets' for White rural folks to send their kids to 'Christian Academies,' and in many other ways, the laws intentionally and consciously hold White people's children, and their education, to be worth more than Black kids' chances.  Administratively, something like four out of ten Black students are "SPED."  Do you have any idea what that means?  Worthless classes, criminalized absences, enforced regimens of toxic drugs, and more grotesque results occur, again consciously and intentionally because the students involved have darker skin.  The courts constantly victimize Black kids disproportionately; I could write five books just from the stories that I've reported as a freelancer.

        Can you not see a connection?  Draw the lines between the dots.  You have no job prospects; schools suck, the society blames you because of your color and your economic position; you've no place to go, nowhere to turn.  I'd have as much sex as I could, under those circumstances, for comfort if nothing else.  Do a lot of the kids need Dutch Uncles?  Duh!  I've taught in those environments and been run off because I'm a tough customer about diligence and discipline.

        I'm not saying to let people run wild.  I'm saying that if we want to solve these sorts of problems, we have to start with what we can do to improve, instead of beginning with what we can find at fault with the victims of the whole social scheme.

        I bow to those who seek the truth; I flee from those who have 'found' it.

        by SERMCAP on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 01:30:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  All you needed to do was give a little... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CA Physics Grad, SERMCAP


          I though you originally meant that teen white kids were having more kids at a young age to keep the south white or something.

          I'm not challenging you, I'm asking for details. What does "SPED" mean, Special Education? Can black kids get tax credits to be home schooled? Or are their administrative barriers to that?

          •  I just provided detail. (0+ / 0-)

            I'm a bit passionate about all this, but I've got no charge against you or any of the other commenters personally.  

            Yes a "SPED" is a special ed student, and I hope to do a diary about the inequities of that messed-up system before the Summer flees.  

            The law, obviously, does not keep Black families from home-schooling.  One of my tutoring clients last year was a brother and sister in such a family.  The problem is, at least, twofold with any analysis which assumes equity on this basis.  Number one, vastly more White folks have the tax bracket and home ownership that makes such breaks meaningful.  Number two, every increase in home-schooling is a reduction in the efficacy of public schools.  

            And every further decline in this already crumbling institution has various socially pathological effects, one of which is the increase in teen pregnancy with which this discussion began.

            I bow to those who seek the truth; I flee from those who have 'found' it.

            by SERMCAP on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 02:05:31 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Is this really surprising? (0+ / 0-)

    I'd say it shows they are more reluctant to kill an unborn child.

    That government is best which governs least. Henry Thoreau

    by rockhead on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 12:22:55 PM PST

  •  The decade with the highest teen birth rate was.. (6+ / 0-)

    (drum roll)

    The fifties. It peaked in 1957. Years before the "sexual revolution", back when sex was just not talked about to young people, teens were still figuring out how to have sex. Unbelievable, huh?

    Also, the same CDC study linked above found that the black teen pregnancy rate had, by 1996, reached it's lowest rate ever, just before Newt and his buddies (and Bill Clinton) ended "welfare as we know it" which was supposedly responsible for all those pregnant black teens. I'm not sure how it has changed since then.

  •  and also the highest infant mortality rates (6+ / 0-)

    Red states also have the highest infant mortality rates.  Given that that party is largely populated by people's who single voting issue is anti-abortion, you'd think they'd look at the results of what they're actually doing.  The Republican tendency to cut social programs and education is actually causing the deaths of babies who were already born, and, presumably, wanted.  Instead, the GOPhers focus on rescuing embryonic protoplasm, while their policies let real babies go hang.

    "Does anybody know what the difference between a bulldog and a hockey mom is? The bulldog gets vetted!" - Bob Barr

    by Front Toward Enemy on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 12:40:00 PM PST

  •  Higher Divorce, Abuse Rates, Too (8+ / 0-)

    Last year sometime I looked up the rates of not just teen pregnancy, but also divorce and domestic violence. I can't find the figures quickly now, but the top of those lists all featured Red States, with Blue States down at the bottom.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 01:03:10 PM PST

  •  Abstinence (0+ / 0-)

    is the one foolproof way to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STDs.  It is also hypocritically unrealistic for adult men who like diapers or sex in public restrooms to be preaching it as the only way to do so.  Mom used to say (of certain self-proclaimed family values types) "there's a lot of he'in and she'in going on there."  Why would these folks think that kids would somehow be different than they were at that age - or than they are now?  This is like some weird take-off on the parent who expects his/her kid to get straight As when the parent got by with Cs or worse.  

    -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 05:52:36 PM PST

  •  Stephanie Coontz in ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BYw, AJ in Camden, CA Berkeley WV

    ...The Way We Never Were noted that, based on church records comparing wedding and baptism dates, about a third of Puritan women in 17th Century New England arrived at altar pregnant.

    Americans do not like to think of themselves as aggressors, but raw aggression is what took place in Iraq. - John Prados

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 08:36:09 PM PST

    •  There was a lot of sex on the passage over also (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Many children were born "prematurely", less than nine months after arrival here. Can you imagine the lack of privacy for a couple on one of htose small Englsh ships? And being seasick on top of the morning sickness?

      Blankets, separate blankets was the vehicle for abstinence. That did not work either.

      Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--Fran├žois-Marie Arouet

      by CA Berkeley WV on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 10:53:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think I saw this in a movie (0+ / 0-)

    Idiocracy, anyone?

    Mike Judge is the new Nostradumus. Need to pay closer attention to KOTH.

  •  Bush policy = ignorance =opposite day (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He says no and the opposite happens, apparently everywhere. Ignorance seemingly doesn't produce very positive results in any field of endeavor.

    820 Illinois-427 Senate Sponsored-152 Senate authored. Obama record on Bills. Palin record 0-0-0. Palin Lies-1 big one and counting.

    by marketgeek on Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 09:11:23 PM PST

  •  They. Do. Not. CARE. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Simple as that.  Give them all the data, and it's still about "sending a message about proper behavior".  They'll still clutch their hymnals tighter and say they just need to teach abstinence all the more.

    How do you win a rational argument with someone whose ground rule #1 is "discard all logic"?

  •  The most liberal of liberal democracies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in the world, The Netherlands, not only has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates, but also the lowest abortion rate in the world.

    "The industrial use of semen will revolutionize society" - John Balance

    by cornagainstsorcery on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 01:02:29 AM PST

  •  Predominance of States with Strong Choice Policy (0+ / 0-)

    underlies the demographic.  You touched on this but failed to draw the right conclusion as illustrated by Mississippi.  States with highest  teen pregnancy are also states with lowest rates of abortion.

    Keeping an open mind is good unless your brains spill out. Bertrand Russell

    by catchnrelease on Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 05:07:24 AM PST

  •  Furthermore (0+ / 0-)

    there is even less curiosity about contraception in red states. Using StateStats, a very useful tool that breaks down google search data by state, and correlates it, shows a positive, moderate correlation between searches for contraception in states that voted for Obama, and a negative moderate correlation in states that voted for Bush.

  •  These same states probably also have the highest (0+ / 0-)

    incarceration and military enrollments, since that's what seems to happen to all these "surplus" children with no chance to better their lives.

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