The use of and easy access to contraceptives is being seen as the cause of numbers published this week by the Guttmacher Institute, showing that the U.S. teen pregnancy rate has hit a 30-year low.

The study found that in 2008, just 67.8 per every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19 got pregnant. That's down from 1990's high point, when 116.9 out of every 1,000 became pregnant.

"Continuing decreases in teen pregnancy more recently may be driven by increased use of the most effective contraceptive methods as well as dual method use," the Guttmacher Institute explained. "In sum, teens appear to be making the decision to be more effective contraceptive users, and their actions are paying off in lower pregnancy, birth and abortion rates."

The study could hardly come at a more perfect time for Democrats, who've found themselves in a pitched rhetorical battle with the Catholic Church over a rule that requires all private health insurance plans to provide free contraception.

After initially objecting to the rule on their own organizations' behalf, Catholic bishops said Thursday that they would not be happy until the rule is scrubbed entirely, permitting any employer to deny contraceptive coverage to their workers.

The rule already provides an exception to churches and religious nonprofits that hire within their faith. Other religious groups that hire based upon non-discrimination policies have a one-year grace period to implement the rule. All others must adopt the policy by August 1.

Despite making birth control free through private insurance, the Obama administration recently rejected a drug company's request to let the "morning after pill" be sold over the counter and without age restriction, even after the Food and Drug Administration endorsed the move.

The Catholic Church considers contraceptive use to be a sin unless the person using them is a prostitute.

Photo: Flickr user Polina Sergeeva.