Sarah Kliff reports for Vox on the startling decline in the number of teen births.
Easy explanation: Rise in the use of effective birth control. There’s some recent evidence of a drop in sexual activity, but it’s mostly been static. (Noted: Birth control is a key service provided by Planned Parenthood; its effective use prevents unwanted pregnancies, which sometimes lead to abortions. Arkansas officials, including the governor and majority of the legislature, want to strip funding that supports birth control services at Planned Parenthood.)
You can see from the map, however, that Arkansas remains at the high end of the scale.
Not specifically related, but related in a way, is the rise in reporting lately about child marriages. That is, the incidence of forced marriages of underage girls, at times because they were pregnant (and at times when the proper course would have been prosecution of an adult male for sexual assault of a minor.)
In this, Arkansas is a national leader, with Idaho and Kentucky, one of the top three states in child marriages (17 and under) per capita. It is sixth in sheer numbers. Nicholas Kristof wrote about the issue in Sunday’s New York Times.
People 18 and older are free to marry in Arkansas. But younger people — 17 for males and 16 for females — may marry with parental consent. Males younger than 17 and females younger than 16 can marry with a court order, typically if a female is pregnant.
The child marriage rate here, Sen. Joyce Elliott commented last night on Twitter, “Just seems wrong.”