The Status of Teen Pregnancies in New Mexico and Nationally

Which State Has the Highest Teen Birth Rate?

Author:  Liane Adams

Teen pregnancy rates are highest in New Mexico and lowest in New Hampshire, according to a report on the most current state-level data on pregnancy, birthrates and abortions among 15- to 19-year-olds. Though 16 states did see an increase in teen pregnancies between 2005 and 2008, the analysis suggests that overall rates are continuing their decades-long decline.   New Hampshire has the lowest rate at 33 births per 1,000 girls.

While the rate of U.S. teen births has hit an all-time low, these 15 states are still struggling:

  Teen Birth Rate in 2010


Number of Births Per 1,000

Teen Girls



New Mexico












West Virginia






South Carolina










Source: National Center for Health Statistics

This chart and information were released in 2010, but earlier and subsequent data show that New Mexico led the list to become #1 in the teen pregnancy birth rate, as Stephanie Pappas reported for LiveScience in February 2013.  In any case, Mississippi and New Mexico consistently occupy the top two spots on this chart.  New Hampshire – also consistently –  remains the state with the lowest rate.

Is there any good news?

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that teen birth rates have continued to decline in the U.S. across nearly all ethnic and racial groups, reaching an historic low in 2012 – the lowest teen birth rate since 1940 (the year when teen birth data began to be collected).  The birth rate in the U.S. for teens 15-19 years old was down six percent in 2012.  Since 2007, the teen birth rate in the U.S. has dropped almost a third (from 41.5 births per 1,000 teenagers 14-19 years to 29.4 births).  Since 1991, it has dropped by more than half (from 61.8)                       

 What has gone right– or wrong?

A Pregnant Teen
Credit: Norman Pogson/Dreamstime

“This progress in reducing teen pregnancy is an enormous public health win,” said Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, parent organization to Planned Parenthood of New Mexico.  “These declines show the continued importance of high-quality sex education and access to affordable birth control for adolescents.”                               

While this ongoing decline in teen birth rates is welcome news, it is important to note that the U.S. still has the highest teen birth rate of any developed country and there are significant disparities among racial and ethnic groups.  There is considerable work remaining to ensure that all young people get the information and access to services they need to  prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.                      

According to the National Vital Statistics report from the Dept. of Health and Human Services, the birth rate for teenagers continued to fall in 2012, reaching 29.4 births per 1,000 teenagers 15-19 years, down 6 percent from 2011 (31.3). Since 2007, the rate has dropped almost one third (from 41.5) and more than half in the years from 1991 (61.8) to 2012. Specific numbers for New Mexico teens not available.

Among racial and ethnic groups, declines from 2011 to 2012 for teenagers 15- 19 years ranged from 3 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) teenagers to 5 to 7 percent for non- Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, Asia/Pacific Islander (API) and Hispanic teenagers. The largest decline for any population group since 2007 was reported for Hispanic teenagers, down 39 percent, to 46.3 per 1,000 in 2012. Birth rates for teenagers 15-17 years fell significantly from 2011 to 2012 in all racial and ethnic groups; rates for ages 18-19 were significantly lower in 2012 for all groups except for AIAN and API teenagers.

If you are interested in reading the full report “National Vital Statistics, September 6, 2013, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services”, click here

What caused the decline?

Writing for ThinkProgress on September 6, 2013, Tara Culp-Ressler notes that more young Americans are using birth control much more often, adding significantly to the decline in teen births.   Culp-Ressler cites  a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics to back up her assertion.

Dr. John Santelli, a professor of population and family health at Columbia University who was not connected to the government study, told NBC News that the 2012 figures represent “a considerable one year drop.” But Santelli also noted that isn’t because there’s been much change in teenagers’ sexual activity over the past decade. There aren’t fewer adolescents having sex, and there isn’t  an increased number of abortions being performed.

Birth Control
Credit: Shutterstock

“What we have seen is greater availability of much more effective birth control methods,” Santelli explained. Particularly as more medical professionals have been recommending long-lasting forms of contraception to their teenage patients, Santelli believes more adolescents have been able to take effective steps to avoid pregnancy.

An earlier article in ThinkProgress (April 10, 2012) by Amanda Peterson Beadle reveals that teen pregnancy rates are highest in states implementing Abstinence-Only policies. 

Researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. And in 2007, a federal report showed that abstinence-only programs had “no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.”

But 37 states require sex education that includes abstinence, 26 of which require that abstinence be stressed as the best method. Additionally, research shows that abstinence-only strategies could deter contraceptive use among teenagers, thus increasing their risk of unintended pregnancy.

The national decline in teen pregnancy is “almost exclusively” a result of more contraceptive use, according to Guttmacher. Birth control use is up to 47 percent of sexually active teens, while teens’ use of both condoms and hormonal contraception rose from 16 percent to 23 percent in recent years.

And the down-side?

But nationally, one in four teens has received abstinence-only education, with no instruction on birth control. Far more states still emphasize abstinence-only sex education over contraception, when they do teach teens about their own bodies at all.

For example, take the states with the highest and lowest teen pregnancy rates. Mississippi does not require sex education in schools, but when it is taught, abstinence-only education is the state standard. New Mexico, which has the first or second highest teen birth rate, depending upon which year is looked at, does not require sex ed and has no requirements on what should be included when it is taught.

Wonkblog’s Sarah Kliff points out that contraceptive use is lower for New Mexico high school students too, at 60.5 percent compared to 75 percent nationally. Other states with high teen pregnancy — Arizona, Texas, and Arkansas — do not require sex ed at all, and if it is taught, schools are required to stress abstinence.

New Hampshire, on the other hand, requires comprehensive sex education in schools that includes abstinence and information about condoms and contraception.

Because of abortion and miscarriage, pregnancies don’t always result in birth. The highest teen birthrate in the country was in Mississippi, where 55 out of 1,000 teens became mothers in 2010. (Birthrate data is available more quickly than overall pregnancy data, so these statistics are more current.) The lowest teen birthrate was in New Hampshire, with 16 out of 1,000 births per teen.

The teen abortion rate was highest in New York, with 37 abortions per 1,000 teen women in 2008. It was lowest in South Dakota, where five out of every 1,000 teens got an abortion that year.

A comprehensive report is available on reproductive health issues from the Guttmacher Institute at   Click here for the specific report on teen pregnancies.

A state-by-state teen pregnancy ranking can be seen here

Now, what are your thoughts on this issue and these numbers?

Note:  The information contained in this piece was compiled from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics; the National Vital Statistics Report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Think Progress; Guttmacher Institute; LiveScience;  and Wonkblog.  KUNM thanks all sources.




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