According to numbers released last week in the 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book, eight out of the 13 counties in Florida with the highest rates of teen pregnancy saw an increase in teen pregnancy from 2008 to 2009.
Despite an overall decrease in teen pregnancy nationwide and statewide, over 60 percent of the counties in Florida with the highest birth rate among teens who are between the ages of 15 and 19 did not manage to decrease their rates in 2009.
This year, Florida KIDS COUNT reported that 13 counties had 13.6 percent to 16.7 percent births to unwed mothers under the age of 20. Of those 13 counties, eight had experienced an increase in their rates from 2008 to 2009.
Among the counties with the highest rate increases was Gulf County, which jumped from 30.3 births per 1,000 in 2008 to 54.3 per 1,000 in 2009 among teens ages 15 to 19. Hamilton County saw an increase from 72.1 in 2008 to 81.6 in 2009. Taylor County’s rates rose from 59.9 to 77.5 per 1,000.
Many comprehensive sex education advocates have pointed to a Florida statute requiring schools in the state to teach abstinence education as part of the reason some counties struggle to decrease teen pregnancy rates. The state policy requires schools to “teach abstinence from sexual activity outside of marriage as the expected standard for all school-age students.”
But each district interprets that statute differently. For example, Manatee County has opted for a more comprehensive sex education policy, while Baker County has decided to adopt a very strict abstinence-only policy.
Nan Gould, a sex education specialist with Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, previously told The Florida Independent that with the high rate of teen pregnancies and the growing problem of teenagers contracting HIV in the U.S., it is important that schools provide robust comprehensive sex education programs.
This year, the state awarded almost $2 million dollars to abstinence-only sex education groups in the state. The money was allocated by the Affordable Care Act. These abstinence education programs place a very limited emphasis on health specifics.
In 2009, Florida was sixth in the nation for teen birth rates.
Here is a graph from KIDS COUNT, comparing the rates from Gulf, Taylor and Hamilton counties to Florida’s teen pregnancy rates: