Teen birth rates have dropped precipitously in Massachusetts and MetroWest during the past few decades, a decline many experts and advocates attribute to increased access to birth control and comprehensive sexual education.
In 1990, there were 7,258 teen births in the state, a rate of 35.4 births per 1,000 females age 15 to 19. A quarter-century later, in 2014, there were just 2,402 teen births, a rate of 10.6.
“This has been the overall trend throughout the country. As there has been affordable access to contraception and contraceptive coverage, we’ve seen declining rates,” said Nicole Castillo, director of public policy and advocacy for the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy.
Massachusetts now has the lowest teen birth rate in the nation, according to a 2015 report from the United Health Foundation.
Declines notwithstanding, health care and advocacy groups continue to push for new state laws they say could press unintended pregnancy rates even lower, including a bill to set statewide sexual education standards in public schools.
Advocates were also anxiously following Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, a sweeping health care overhaul that requires insurers to cover preventive services, including birth control, without co-pays.
To level fund with inflation, the Children’s Trust needs $14.8 million in fiscal 2018, but Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget proposal only allocates $14.3 million, according to the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, which asked legislators to boost the line item.
The governor’s budget proposal still includes millions of dollars for teen pregnancy prevention and young parent support programs, with funding bumps for some.
“Massachusetts is proud to have the lowest teen birth rate in the nation and the Baker-Polito Administration has carefully focused on evidence-based health and prevention strategies, strong community partnerships and work to increase protective factors associated with lower teen pregnancy rates,” said Lizzy Guyton, a Baker spokeswoman.
Research suggests the Healthy Families program improves outcomes for the mothers and the children, and reduces second pregnancies shortly following the first, said Stacey Nee, communications director of the Children’s Trust.
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