MINNEAPOLIS (Christian Examiner) – A researcher at Focus on the Family says a new study showing lesbian teens are four times more likely to become pregnant than are straight teens is "of course counterintuitive" and "startling" – but also pointed out that girls raised by lesbians tend to identify as lesbian.
The survey of more than 77,000 ninth and 11th graders in Minnesota, which is now only gaining traction nationwide, was conducted in 2013, although the sexual data was reported only recently by a group that monitors the sex activity of youth in the state.
A full 6.6 percent of lesbian teens say they've been pregnant, compared to 1.5 percent of straight female teens who say the same. But among bisexual females, the percentage is even higher (8.2 percent), meaning that group is five times more likely than straight teens to become pregnant.
A similar pattern was found among gay male teens, where 9.9 percent say they've gotten a girl pregnant – a rate four times that of straight male teens (2.4 percent). Among bisexual teens, it's 8.9 percent.
The pregnancy rates among gay and lesbian teens were surprising to both sides of the cultural debate.
The authors of the report by Teenwise Minnesota surmised that a contributing factor was the percentage of drug and alcohol use prior to sex by gay and lesbian teens, which was higher than that of straight teens.
John Azbill-Salisbury, director of programs at the Minneapolis-based Rainbow Health Initiative, told the Star-Tribune that risky behavior among gay and lesbian teens is higher because they're not fully supported.
"You know, if you're being told all day long that how you think about yourself is wrong, or that it doesn't fit into the environment that you're in, that has a negative effect on all of those things, including risk behaviors that would lead to pregnancy," he said.
FOCUS ON THE FAMILY WEIGHS IN
Glenn T. Stanton, director of Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family and a research fellow at the Institute of Marriage and Family in Ottawa, called the study "very startling" and "of course counterintuitive."
"But other research supports it," Stanton told Christian Examiner. "A few years ago, data from some very gay-friendly scholars found that girls raised in lesbian homes are much more likely to identify as lesbian, but also, in general, make tremendously higher use of emergency contraception than other peers."
The new study also challenges the mainstream notion that sexuality is fixed, said Stanton, the author of "Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor."
"This present finding demonstrates that being 'gay' or 'lesbian' is much less a way one 'is' than we are led to believe," Stanton said. "It is much more fluid, with same-sex attracted individuals often 'switching lanes and back again' if you will, in their sexual interests and behaviors.
"But it also shows, as with much other data, that same-sex attracted individuals are more likely to engage in higher levels of risky sexual behaviors than their opposite-sex attracted peers. ... The picture for same-sex attracted young adults is clearly very concerning," he concluded.
Sexual activity among gay and lesbian teens is significantly higher than that of straight teens, according to the study: 50.9 percent of lesbians and 48.7 percent of gay teens say they've had sex, compared to 23.5 percent of straight girls and 25.9 percent of straight boys.
CHURCH HAS 'GREAT RESPONSIBLITY TO THIS GENERATION'
Bob Stith, founder of Family and Gender Issues Ministries in Southlake, Texas, told the Christian Examiner he first thought the pregnancy data "had to be a mistake," but soon realized that other studies supported it.
"G. K. Chesterton once said, 'Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.' As a society we have been breaking down fences for many years now," Stith said. "We have told teens it's OK to have sex as long as you use protection. ... As we have broken down more and more of the old mores, we should not be surprised that we're seeing more and different problems."
A Canadian study released in 2007 found that bisexual and gay teens "were more than three times more likely to have been involved in a pregnancy," while lesbian and bisexual females "were two to three times" more likely to have been pregnant than straight female teens.
The church, Stith said, "has a great responsibility to this generation."
"We must give our kids a safe place to talk about sexual issues – especially issues related to homosexuality," Stith said. "Many kids struggling with same-sex attractions aren't sure the church is a safe place to talk about these issues. And sometimes when they do, the answers aren't really what they should be."
Young people may say their "friend" needs help, but in reality, they are the one who is seeking assistance, Stith said.
"We have simply got to do a better job of in-depth training in our churches so we might do a better job of explaining our reasoning in the marketplace of ideas," Stith said. "Over the last 20 years I've seen many strong believers moderate their views on homosexuality because they have not been prepared to lovingly respond to a child, friend or loved one who has a same-sex struggle."
The study reveals youth are confused, Stith concludes.
"Will the church do more than react?" Stith asks. "Will we determine we must begin being proactive and not simply reactive?"