Teen pregnancies fall but media cite “failure”

Teenage pregnancies have fallen to their lowest rate in over 20 years. But the media are painting the new figures as a Government "failure".

Teenage pregnancies have fallen to their lowest rate in over 20 years. Considering the arguments about broken societies and statistical manipulation this finding from the Office of National Statistics gives some reason for optimism.

But not according to the mainstream media. The same statistics were reported in yesterday’s Evening Standard as “Ministers Fail To Meet Target“:

“Ministers were criticised today over their failure to achieve a steeper fall in teenage pregnancies after new figures showed a four per cent drop …

“The statistics also reveal that 40.6 out of every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 17 become pregnant. That means a Government pledge from 1998 to halve the rate, which then stood at 46.6, within 10 years will be missed.”

While Brenda Almond in the Daily Mail extraordinarily claimed:

“Indeed, far from promoting restraint or commitment, the entire emphasis of this politically correct system is on the so- called ‘sexual rights’ of young people.

“And the dreadful consequences are there for all to see in rising rates of both teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”

Not wanting to let facts get in the way of a message, it seems the anti-sex education lobby has managed to persuade the media to paint a pretty consistent downward trend as being a “failure” and “a disaster”. But it’s unclear how this chart tallies with these invectives:

But all is not lost. The Guardian deserve praise for quoting Dr Claire Alexander who puts the stats in proper context:

“Overall, teenage birthrates are now at around the same level as in the 1950s, that supposed ‘golden age’ of family.”

Still, the Government has some responsibility for setting the nation’s teenagers such a ridiculous target in the first place. Changing social trends is notoriously difficult and aiming to reverse and halve what was between 1995 and 1998 a rising trend would have required a huge change in social behaviour over which public services, let alone Government itself, has little power.

Achieving a halving of the rate would have required the full weight of target-based infrastructure with big government chastity inspectors and wholescale bans on teenagers having parties, drinking alcohol, using the Internet, watching the Discovery Channel, reading Laurence, and passing puberty. We watch with interest.

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10 Responses to “Teen pregnancies fall but media cite “failure””

  1. Elrik Merlin

    RT @leftfootfwd: Teen pregnancies fall but right-wing media cite "failure" & "rising rates" #MediaFail http://bit.ly/cAWV5z

  2. Hannah Mudge

    RT @leftfootfwd Teen pregnancies fall but right-wing media cite "failure" and "rising rates" #MediaFail http://bit.ly/cAWV5z

  3. ian

    If the government have managed to reduce the rate to about 4%, that’s a massive achievement. A few days, I read that the rate was 54%.

  4. Martin Johnston

    RT @leftfootfwd: Teen pregnancies fall but right-wing media cry failure+rising rates #MediaFail http://bit.ly/cAWV5z #reasonsnottovotetory

  5. Rory

    Why is lower teenage pregnancies a good thing? Surely it’s a set-back in the struggle against the forces of conservatism. Do we really want to go back to the kind of traditionalist society where children are generally brought up by their two parents?

  6. Mr. Sensible

    Yet again the New Right get it wrong.

  7. rivenhomewood

    RT @ElrikMerlin: RT @leftfootfwd: Teen pregnancies fall but right-wing media cite "failure" & "rising rates" #MediaFail http://bit.ly/cAWV5z

  8. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by leftfootfwd: Teen pregnancies fall but right-wing media cite “failure” and “rising rates” #MediaFail http://bit.ly/cAWV5z

  9. PaulW

    Part of the reason for focussing on teenage pregnancy in 1998 and the back of the envelope target was the realisation that UK rates were the highest in Western Eurpoe and six times higher than in the Netherlands.

    Does anybody know of more recent figures for other countries? Are rates converging or conception rates falling more quickly elsewhere than in the UK?

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