Abortion and pregnancy rates in Canadian teenage girls has dropped 36.9% since 1996, according to a new report released by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN). SIECCAN says this is mainly due to improved access to contraception, better broadly-based quality sex education and a shifting of social norms.
SIECCAN stresses that school-based programs are a vital avenue for providing health education for children and young people. Educators, public health professionals, administrators, and all individuals who are committed to providing high quality sexual health education in schools are frequently asked to explain the rationale, philosophy, and content of proposed or existing sexual health education programs. SIECCAN says that “Canada is a pluralistic society in which people with differing philosophical, cultural, and religious values live together in a society structured upon basic democratic principles. Canadians have diverse values and opinions related to human sexuality.”
Lead author of the report, Alexander McKay, says that teen pregnancy rates are a basic fundamental indicator of young women’s sexual and reproductive health. “While not all teen pregnancies are a bad thing, when we see (the rates) dropping, it’s a fairly clear indicator that young women are doing increasingly well in terms of controlling and protecting their reproductive health.”
This is how Canadian teenage pregnancy figures compared with other countries:
- Canada – 36.9% drop
- USA – 25% drop
- England and Wales – 4.75% drop
- Sweden – 19.1% rise
In comparison to the United States, we tend to have a more balanced, sensible approach to adolescent sexual health. Generally speaking what you find is that the more a society has an accepting attitude toward the reality of adolescent sexuality, the lower the teen pregnancy rate is. Canadians tend to have a more relaxed attitude towards adolescent sexuality than people in the United States.
McKay added that, ironically, the USA’s abstinence-only sex education slant generally backfires – resulting in a higher percentage of teenage pregnancies. He suggested that America’s lack of universal health care as well as some well-entrenched pockets of poverty also play a role.
This is how teen birth and abortion rates compare between some countries:
- Canada – 27.9 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 years
- Sweden – 31.4 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 years
- England and Wales – 60.3 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 years
- USA – 61.2 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 years
McKay believes the rise in the Swedish rate is mainly due to an increase in abortions and significantly less sex education in schools in Sweden.
Within Canada, the drop in teen pregnancy and abortion rates were:
- Ontario – 51.5%
- Yukon – 51.8%
- Saskatchewan – 25.5%
- Quebec – 10%
More and more young women in Canada are feeling optimistic about educational and employment opportunities. When that tends to be the case, we tend to see lower teen pregnancy rates.
The study also revealed that approximately half of all 16 and 17 year old Canadians are sexually active (Source: Statistics Canada). McKay said that figure has not changed.
The teen pregnancy rate in Canada generally includes births, abortions, stillbirths or miscarriages. However, because of differences in data in various areas, the teen pregnancy rate for this particular study was calculated on the basis of just live births and abortions. As the miscarriage rate is “miniscule”, according to McKay, its impact on the overall statistics would have been negligible.
Written by Christian Nordqvist