CDC: Teen births at historic low

Birth rates for U.S. teen mothers have hit their lowest point since the 1940s, the government reported Wednesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 329,797 children were born last year to teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19, the lowest number of births to that age group since 1946. The teen birth rate has seen a significant drop over the last two decades in particular, falling 38 percent since 1991.

The birth rate for women in their early 20s dropped to its lowest point ever recorded, meanwhile, at 85.3 births per 1,000 women.

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The figures are in line with past studies on teen pregnancy. A February report from the Guttmacher Institute, a group that studies sexual health, estimated that the U.S. teen birth rate had hit its lowest point in decades.

The Guttmacher study also found that in 2008, the teen abortion rate had reached its lowest level since 1972, one year before the Supreme Court established the right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.

The teen abortion rate for 2008 was 17.8 per 1,000 women, according to Guttmacher, and had fallen 59 percent since 1988.

Report authors called the figures "great news," attributing the declining teen birth and abortion rates to increased and more effective use of contraception. 

Planned Parenthood said the same in a statement Wednesday on the new CDC numbers.

"The teen birth rate has been declining steadily for several years because more teens are using birth control, and more teens are using contraception and condoms together," said Leslie Kantor, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement.

"We can continue this progress by doing what we know works, including expanding access to high-quality sex education and making long-acting types of birth control, such as IUDs and implants, more accessible to teens," Kantor said. 

New CDC data also revealed that overall U.S. births have declined for the fourth year in a row — a trend expected to result from the economic downturn.

The CDC figures on declining teen births were collected by state health departments. The agency's report did not suggest reasons for the trend.