When your city’s teen pregnancy rate drops by a few percentage points, that’s fairly normal. Just like announcing: “I’ve lost two pounds!” does not really mean anything because your body’s weight fluctuates by a couple of pounds every day.
In the past ten years, the NYC teen pregnancy rate has dropped by twenty-seven percent. That is not happenstance. That is is the result of an effective program. Specifically, an effective program of working to give New York City teens access to birth-control, including Plan B. Giving access like this reinforces the idea in teens that pregnancy is a genuine risk while making birth-control convenient to acquire, increasing the chances that teenagers can be prepared for whenever they do have sex.
This should be a program that is available for everyone, everywhere, but especially to teenagers. Everywhere. It will be a while before that happens (possibly to the point at which new birth-control methods have made current ones antiquated), because a lot of people are ridiculous and because one of the worst parts of living in a democracy is that everyone gets a say.
Now, NYC’s program is not flawless. Latino and black teen girls are still much more likely than their white counterparts to become pregnant as a teenager. That, of course, is not directly a result of race, but a result of poverty (which still has large racial correlations, unfortunately). That is something that needs to be addressed.
But while New York City’s teen pregnancy rate is still higher than the national average, the degree to which it has plummeted during the past decade makes me very hopeful that other cities (and, dare I suggest, even non-cities?) will begin implementing similar programs. Remember all of that nonsense funding that states received during the Bush years to teach abstinence-only programs instead of comprehensive sex education? That’s what I had to put up with in high school. How wonderful would it be if that amount of funding could go to states and individual school districts to give all of their students easy access to birth-control with accompanying education?