Federal Family Planning Programs and Teen Sex

Pregnant Pause Home Youth & Education Search this site


The federal government spends millions of dollars on family planning programs which are intended to reduce teen sexual activity and pregnancy. How effective are these programs?

A cynic might point out that while spending on Title X (the umbrella that includes most of these programs) has now grown to almost $200 million per year, teen pregnancy continues to rise. Have they accomplished anything at all?

We might get a glimpse of their effectiveness by looking at what happened in the early 1980's. There was a dispute between the administration and Congress over how Title X money should be spent, and they ended up actually reducing appropriations (rare for a government program). As federal family planning activities had to be cut back, what happened to teen pregnancy rates? (Note: the following chart lists out-of-wedlock births and abortions rather than total pregnancies, because that's the data actually available.)

Federal Pregnancy Prevention and Teen Pregnancy [1]
Year Title X ($ millions) Out-of-Wedlock Births (thousands) Abortions (thousands) Total (thousands)
1970 6.0 190 46 236
1971 61.8 194 138 332
1972 100.6 202 183 385
1973 100.6 205 232 437
1974 100.6 210 278 488
1975 100.6 222 325 547
1976 113.6 225 363 588
1977 135.0 240 398 638
1978 135.0 240 419 659
1979 162.0 253 445 698
1980 161.0 263 445 708
1981 124.2 259 433 692
1982 124.0 260 419 679
1983 140.0 261 411 672
1984 142.5 261 n/a n/a
1985 n/a 271 399 670

Or let's look at it graphically:

Title X Spending vs Problem Pregnancies
(1977=100%)

Hmm, that's funny. When federal spending on family planning went up, teen pregnancy went up. When federal spending on family planning went down, teen pregnancy went down. In fact, the two trend lines practically parallel each other.

Maybe the cynic would be right after all.


[1] Chart adapted from Bad Choices, ©1992 by Douglas R Scott, p 75
Pregnant Pause Home Youth & Education Search this site

Posted 15 Sep 2000.

Copyright 1995,2000 by Ohio Right to Life and Pregnant Pause
Contact Pregnant Pause