Teen Birth Rates Highest In More Religious States


Not at all surprising, a new study has shown that teen birth rates are highest in states which are considered heavily religious.
U.S. states whose residents have more conservative religious beliefs on average tend to have higher rates of teenagers giving birth, a new study suggests.

The relationship could be due to the fact that communities with such religious beliefs (a literal interpretation of the Bible, for instance) may frown upon contraception, researchers say. If that same culture isn't successfully discouraging teen sex, the pregnancy and birth rates rise.

In a culture which uses sexuality to sell products to people starting at ages as low as ten (Thanks, Disney) it's not at all shocking that abstinence programs fail. The mixed signals kids get from the media regarding the power and allure of sex and their parents who tell them sex is something you should wait to do is not a healthy sexual environment for anyone involved. Pair this with the typical fundamentalist religious reaction to sex - that it's evil and sinful - turns sex itself into a taboo which most teenagers find fascinating. Just say no doesn't work and abstaining for god obviously isn't working either. The one thing that religion does seem to effectively keep kids from doing is having sex intelligently - by using contraception:

However, the results don't say anything about cause and effect, though study researcher Joseph Strayhorn of Drexel University College of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh offers a speculation of the most probable explanation: "We conjecture that religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself."

Ahh, but I can hear the religious nuts now claiming that this study is skewed because kids on less religious states could be getting pregnant just as much if not MORE than religious states, they're just running around having abortion parties to dump their irresponsibly begotten babies so they can go out and have more heathenish orgies. Well, no. Thankfully, the study accounted for abortions and while abortions were higher in less religious states, accounting for those did nothing to change the outcome of the study.

For instance, the results showed more abortions among teenagers in the less religious states, which would skew the findings since fewer teens in these states would have births. But even after accounting for the abortions, the study team still found a state's level of religiosity could predict their teen birth rate. The higher the religiosity, the higher was the teen birth rate on average.

John Santelli of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University calls the study "well-done," adding that the results are not surprising.

"The index of religiosity is tapping into more fundamentalist religious belief," Santelli said. "I'm sure there are parts of New England that have very low teen birth rates, which have pretty high religious participation, but they're probably less conservative, less fundamentalist type of congregations."

And that right there says it all, doesn't it? I would wager that moderate or liberal religious groups are far less likely to do such a good job of denouncing contraception while doing such a terrible job at denouncingsexual activity. It makes perfect sense that this would be a fundamentalist issue - they have to keep their numbers up somehow.