We know that the only sure defense against teenagers becoming pregnant is abstinence. Steering clear of intercourse also is the only foolproof way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.
The Daily Republic printed an Associated Press story noting that teen birth rates have declined again in the United States. According to the report, the 2010 rate for teenage mothers reached its lowest point since record-keeping began in 1940.
For girls age 15 to 19, the pregnancy rate fell 9 percent to 34 per 1,000 girls. The decline was across the board for all racial and ethnic groups.
In South Dakota, the rate is 34.9 girls per 1,000. Our state has the 22nd highest rate nationwide, with Mississippi ranking No. 1, at 55 per 1,000, and New Hampshire ranking No. 50, at 15.7 per 1,000.
The national decline is refreshing, although we wish South Dakota's number was a little better.
We did notice, however, that in that particular Associated Press report, abstinence wasn't mentioned as a reason for the decline. According to the authors of the report, the declines are attributed to pregnancy prevention efforts in general. The authors also note that a recent government survey showed more use of contraception by teens.
This is a touchy subject and it always has been. Should teens be educated on the use of contraceptives, or should they simply be taught that abstinence is the best and only method?
We tend to feel that it should be a combination of both. Certainly, kids should be told the merits of holding off until marriage and fighting the natural urges equipped standard in all human beings.
But abstinence education can only go so far. Meanwhile, we feel that any method that reduces the teen birth rate is worthy of consideration and deserving of credit, moral beliefs notwithstanding.
Although some teens make it work — and there are some wonderful success stories out there — we all know that an unplanned pregnancy can be devastating to the young parents involved.
Teens deserve "the talk," and every parent is responsible for providing it. They must be reminded that abstinence is the only absolute way to avoid unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
We acknowledge and agree with the moral and religious arguments concerning abstinence.
Unfortunately, history proves that kids don't always agree. Even those teens who do agree sometimes succumb in this age-old fight.
So credit also is due to the educational efforts that have been dedicated to contraception, and we find it difficult to pooh-pooh anything that has helped lead us to this point.
A well-rounded approach on the topic is what's needed.
— The Daily (Mitchell, S.D.) Republic