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A recent uptick in Pennsylvania's abortion rate defies a nationwide trend of fewer abortions, drawing a range of explanations from local organizations and on-campus groups.

The number of abortions performed in the United States in 2005 - the latest year for which data is available - was the lowest since 1976 at 1.2 million. Though Pennsylvania's abortion rate has largely declined over that time period, the state's abortion rate rose slightly from 13.7 in 2004 to 14 percent in 2005.

For pro-life supporters, this is evidence of increased promiscuity among Pennsylvania teenagers. Pro-choice partisans, on the other hand, see the statistics as proof that abstinence-only funding in the state has caused a rise in unplanned pregnancies.

Pennsylvanians for Human Life member Kathy Bond blames America's sex-saturated culture for the increase in Pennsylvania abortions, despite the downward trend nationwide.

"The whole message out there is go ahead and have sex," she said.

According to Judi McLane, the director of Generation Life - a Philadelphia group that promotes chastity and pro-life education - Planned Parenthood is the culprit. McLane said the number of abortions in Pennsylvania has risen due to "the aggressive promotion of promiscuity and safe sex by Planned Parenthood."

However, CEO and President of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania Dayle Steinberg said abortions have increased locally because "Pennsylvania does not do a good job of providing public funding for family planning for poor women."

On campus, student advocates said poor sexual education has contributed to rising abortions in Pennsylvania.

"A lack of education has prevented abortion from declining," co-president of Penn for Choice Jessica Berard said.

Pennsylvania currently receives federal funding for abstinence-only education. Sixteen states have rejected federal funding so they can offer more comprehensive sex-education.

"Hopefully Pennsylvania will reject funding in the near future so that young women have the education to prevent unplanned pregnancies," Berard said.

Brenda Green, the executive director of Choice - a Philadelphia-based reproductive and sexual health advocacy group - said abstinence-only programs have caused the teenage pregnancy rate to rise for the first time in a decade.

"I think it's a public health risk," she said of abstinence-only education. "Withholding information for me is in the same avenue as withholding medication. I think it's ethically irresponsible."

Abstinence-only programs have come under fire from some national groups, too. A 2007 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that there is not strong evidence that abstinence-only programs influence sexual decisions.

Looking at it from both sides, Penn for Life President Racquel Skold said that, although she supports abstinence-based programs for the values they instill, she "also [does] believe in teaching people about birth control."

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