Teen pregnancies on upswing in U.S.
New programs reach out to teen mothers
April 3, 1996
Web posted at: 12:15 a.m. EST
From Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (CNN) -- The number of teen pregnancies and births in the United States is higher than any other industrialized country, despite similar rates of sexual activity. Every day in the United States, about 3,000 teen-age girls will learn that they are pregnant, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
JAMA published a new study in this week's issue showing that during the 1980s, the teen pregnancy rate increased, while the abortion rate remained stable. There was an initial decline in births during the early '80s, when births for 15- to 19-year-olds dropped about 4 percent. Then, from 1985 to 1990, birth rates rose about 18 percent for the same group. According to this study, 95 percent of the pregnancies were unintended.
Countering this bleak news are anti-teen-age pregnancy programs throughout the country. One such program, in Birmingham, Alabama, is reaching out to teen-age mothers in an attempt to prevent them from getting pregnant again.
Many of the teens in the Birmingham group said they believed that they wouldn't become pregnant, no matter what. "I thought I was too good for that," said one teen. (85K AIFF sound or 85K WAV sound)
"Did anyone think about preventing it from happening?" girls in the group were asked.
"I could have used a condom, but then again --" said one.
An editorial in JAMA cites additional reasons, including failure to provide sex education in the home and school, limited access to birth control, irresponsible presentation of sex in the media, and poverty.
The group teaches these young mothers valuable life lessons. For example, they are shown that they can set goals and reach them. As a result, the number of repeat pregnancies among these teens has been cut in half.
Researchers say that programs like this one are part of the solution -- and that they may be leading to a lower pregnancy rate. The CDC found that in both 1992 and 1993, the teen pregnancy rate dropped 2 percent.
"We think that young people need to be encouraged to take sexual responsibility," said Alison Spitz of the CDC. "We also think that young people that are sexually active need to be using effective methods of contraception."
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