Sunday, February 05, 2006

Let's set the record straight

I removed a political comment from the previous post because it was inappropriate and insensitive, considering the topic of the post I had made.

However, there are some matters that need to be set straight, raised in the now-gone comment.

There are still many people who are trying to continue the ranting that we're going to hell in a handbasket. And to make their case, they like to lump in a whole slew of problems to make them sound like it's one big thing, immorality, that's going to get us.

See, they like to make a stew of women's rights, internet sexual predators, sex education, teenage promiscuity and "increasing birth rates." They want us to believe these are all exactly the same thing. And they are not.

Listen to a common catch phrase: They like to talk about the olden days, "when the air was clean and sex was dirty."

Yeah, besides being hackneyed, it's just a stupid phrase. Kind of reminiscent of the 1970s non sequitur: "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

Let's look at the truth:

Teenage childbearing has been on a long-term decline in the United States since the late 1950s, except for a brief, but steep, upward climb in the late 1980s through 1991. The 2003 rate (41.7 births per 1,000 for teens ages 15–19) is 3% lower than in 2002 and 33% lower than the most recent peak in 1991 (61.8). The declining teenage birth rate has had an impressive impact on the number of babies born to teenagers. If the birth rates by age had remained at 1991 levels throughout the 1990s instead of declining as they did, there would have been an additional 546,000 births to teenagers over the decade. Possible factors accounting for the decline include decreased sexual activity reflecting changing attitudes toward premarital sex, an increase in condom use, and the adoption of newly available hormonal contraception, implants, and injectables.

Despite the rates' reaching record lows in 2003, U.S. teenage birth rates remain substantially higher than rates for other developed countries.

(Source: Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 53, no. 9, Nov. 23, 2004.)

Even more interesting is this chart showing how drastically the teen birth rate has dropped:

Teen childbearing
Year Total number of births to women 15–19 years
1940 300,747
1950 419,535
1960 586,966
1970 644,708
1980 552,161
1990 521,826
2000 468,990
2002 425,493
2003 414,961

Year Birth rate per 1,000 women 15–19 years
1940 54.1
1950 81.6
1960 89.1
1970 68.3
1980 53.0
1990 59.9
2000 48.5
2002 43.0
2003 41.7

Why lookie there ... the highest birth rate decade for women 15-19 was ... the "good old days" of the 1960s. The current birth rate to this age group is less than HALF now.

This "hell in a handbasket" faction also is strongly anti-abortion. They also like to play with the numbers to make the U.S. sound like a murderous lot. Personally, I don't know of anyone who actively seeks out unborn children to kill. There probably have been plenty of cases of infanticide in history -- King Herrod being the main one I can call to mind at the moment. But those who support a woman's right to choose are NOT (and let me re-emphasize the word "NOT") on a mission to kill unborn babies. They are for the woman's right to chose. There are as many reasons for making that choice as there are women. They, along with their doctors, families and support systems make those choices.

Many people who are for choice are also working diligently to find ways of making the choice unnecessary. This is not something anyone WANTS to do. And there are even fewer voices advocating abortion as a method of birth control. Yes, it does happen, but let's again look at the real numbers:

Here are the abortion rates (legal abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44. Note, this is not just teenagers.)

1972 - 13
1980 - 25
1985 - 24
1990 - 24
1995 - 20
1997 - 20
1999 - 17
2000 - 16
2001 - 16

See the peak? It was back "in the good old days" of 1980.

Many of us are old enough to remember when abortion was not legal. That is not to say that abortions did not happen, because they certainly did -- in back-alley clinics under unsanitary conditions. Women died. Women were permanently damaged. Too many were never able to have families. Many of these women medically needed to terminate a pregnancy, a terribly heart-breaking situation. Too many of my friends have been in such circumstances. They desperately wanted to deliver a live baby but that was not going to happen. And without medical intervention, they too would be at risk of death or terrible complications.

Let's consider some other facts about our changing society. Many years ago, women (and men) married at a much younger age. Here is the MEDIAN age at first marriage as supplied by the U.S. Census. REMEMBER THIS: Median means half were married before this age, half after. Keep that in mind -- it means an awful lot of people were getting married before they were this old:

Year Males Females
1890 26.1 22.0
1900 25.9 21.9
1910 25.1 21.6
1920 24.6 21.2
1930 24.3 21.3
1940 24.3 21.5
1950 22.8 20.3
1960 22.8 20.3
1970 23.2 20.8
1980 24.7 22.0
1990 26.1 23.9
1993 26.5 24.5
1994 26.7 24.5
1995 26.9 24.5
1996 27.1 24.8
1997 26.8 25.0
1998 26.7 25.0
1999 26.9 25.1
2000 26.8 25.1
2001 26.9 25.1
2002 26.9 25.3
2003 27.1 25.3

So let's review, shall we? Teen birth rates are down, sharply. Legal abortion rates are down, sharply. Age at first marriage continues to rise.

Here's another important statistic: the Gender Gap for full-time, year-round work. We'll hit every few years from the 1950s to now, to see the trend (you can look up all years from 1951 to 2003 yourself.)

Year Women's earnings as a percentage of men's
1951 63.9
1955 63.9
1960 60.7
1965 59.9
1970 59.4
1975 58.8
1980 60.2
1985 64.6
1990 71.6
1995 71.4
2000 73.3
2001 76.3
2002 76.6
2003 75.5

As women are treated with respect, as equals, the earning gap will continue to narrow. We'll see more positive changes: Continuing declines in teen births; a drop in the rate of abortions; an increase in age at first marriage.

All of these things require education -- sex education included. As women become more empowered, especially young women, they will seek their own bright futures. They will make wiser decisions to protect their own bodies from early pregnancies and disease. They will postpone marriage until they are stable, equally contributing partners.

Marriages will be stronger from the beginning -- they will be true partnerships of two equal adults, not weak partners looking for a chance to escape unhealthy situations through marriage.

Child abuse, internet predators and the like? Well, those are whole separate issues. And they should be dealt with separately, as they usually involve sick adult men.

The present, and the future, is not nearly as glum as some would have us believe. The truth is there in the numbers. Education works. Sex education work. Birth control education works.

2 comments:

Erudite Redneck said...

Here, here, Trixie. Amen and amen.

Of course, the ones to whom this aimed never let facts get in the way of their story.

Cathy said...

I agree with you 100%. I am so sick of hearing that I am going to hell because I am pro choice. I don't believe that abortion should be used for birth control. But I believe it is a womans choice and it is between her and God.