- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

The United States could learn a lot from Canada and European countries, which have much lower teen pregnancy and birthrates, says a study released today by a leading sexuality research organization.
U.S. teen birthrates declined during the 1990s, but "even states with the lowest rates are still at or above these other countries," said Jacqueline Darroch, vice president for research at the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) and principal researcher of the study.
"Looking at these outcomes led us to believe there are lessons we can learn from other countries," she said.
Traditional family groups, however, said the Europe-is-better message is part of a propaganda campaign from sex education advocates who want to eliminate funding for abstinence education.
"Strong families will solve the 'teen pregnancy problem' by solving the root problem failed relationships," Focus on the Family said in a report issued in June on European and American sex-education models.
The 100 page-plus AGI study, released today, is a large-scale study of teen sexual and reproductive behavior between 1998 and 2001 in the United States, Sweden, Canada, Britain and France. It found that:
The United States has the highest rates for teen pregnancies, births, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Teen sexual activity and age of sexual debut "do not vary appreciably" among the five countries; however, U.S. teens are most likely to start having intercourse at the youngest age (around 15) and have multiple sexual partners.
European youths are more likely to use birth control, especially birth-control pills, than U.S. teens.
"The high U.S. rates arise primarily because of less, and possibly less-effective, contraceptive use by sexually active teen-agers," said the AGI study, which was funded by the Ford Foundation and Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Easier access to birth control and reproductive health services would lower American teen birthrates, as would "full information" about sexuality and wider "societal acceptance of sexual activity among young people," the study concluded.
This is "a very significant study, which shows that countries that educate young people about sexuality rather than treating the subject as forbidden fruit have much lower rates of teen pregnancy and STDs," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth (AFY), which has done several sex-education fact-finding trips to Europe and reached similar conclusions.
"The AGI study calls into serious question the abstinence-only approach here in the United States," said Mr. Wagoner, adding that AFY will be reviewing the study's findings at its 20th anniversary conference this weekend in Washington.
However, Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, said there is "so much more to the [European] story than they're giving us."
Sweden not only has a sexually liberal environment, it has high rates of depression, suicide, alcoholism and juvenile delinquency, said Mrs. Rios.
Furthermore, Europe is struggling with family breakdown, single parenting, low fertility rates and sluggish socialistic economies, she said. "So for us to think that we must emulate a declining Europe is the height of folly."
Dr. John Diggs, who went on a 1999 sex education fact-finding tour of European countries led by Focus on the Family, said that America was unlikely to accept the European practice of encouraging girls to take birth-control pills from puberty through adulthood. "In Sweden, the average age to have the first child is 30," he noted.
"If Alan Guttmacher wants to support anything the Europeans do," added Dr. Diggs, "it should encourage the United States to impose the same limits on abortion that European countries have," such as requiring parental consent until the girl is 18 and denying abortions for pregnancies older than 10 weeks.

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