Thursday, April 29, 1999

Teen birth rates keep falling

Researchers credit greater use of contraceptives

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Teen pregnancy, birth and abortion rates continued to drop in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana in 1996, reflecting national decreases, according to reports that will be released today in Washington.

        The teen pregnancy rate declined 4 percent nationwide between 1995 and 1996 and is down 17 percent from its 1990 peak, according to studies by the Alan Guttmacher Institute and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal study shows the teen pregnancy rate dropped another 4 percent in 1997.

        “Many groups want to take credit for the drop in teen-aged pregnancy, but the credit goes to the teen-agers,” said Jacque line E. Darroch, Guttmacher's vice president for research. “About 20 percent of the decrease since the late 1980s is because of decreased sexual activity,” she said, “and 80 percent is because of more effective contraceptive practice.”

        The release of the Guttmacher report coincides with the opening of May as National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and the publication of Guttmacher's teen opinion surveys and two teen pregnancy prevention pamphlets.

        Several of the national survey responses ring true to Lisa Dulaney, 18, of Amelia, the mother of 19-month-old Anthone.

        As a teen-aged mother, her message to other young women is the same as the one teens nationally are delivering.

        “Be careful,” Ms. Dulaney said. “If you're going to do it, use birth control.”

        Ms. Dulaney was an athlete, too busy to think she would become sexually active until she decided to have sex without using birth control. She considered making an adoption plan but chose to keep her son. Abortion was not an option for her.

        The national abortion rate for women ages 15-19, 29.2 per 1,000 in 1996, has dropped 33 percent since the 43.5-per-1,000 rate recorded in 1988.

        By comparing data compiled annu ally since 1986, the Guttmacher report also showed a 12 percent decrease in the teen birth rate between its peak in 1991 and 1996.

        Nationwide, data showed about 880,170 teen pregnancies in 1996, about 1 for every 10 teen-aged females. Sixty-two percent of them were 18- and 19-year-olds. In Ohio, the rate of teen pregnancy from 1992 to 1996 declined from 93 per 1,000 women ages 15-19 to 81 (13 percent).

        In Kentucky, that rate dropped in the same period from 99 per 1,000 to 89 (10 percent).

        In Indiana, that same rate declined from 95 to 88 (8 percent). Teen pregnancy experts found a reduction in the number of teen-aged mothers having subsequent pregnancies and births. Findings point to an increased use of condoms in response to the fear of AIDS in the 1990s.

        Also, “many sexually active teen-agers are using the highly effective contraceptive implant, Norplant, and the injectable Depo-Provera, which only became available in the early 1990s,” said Ms. Darroch of Guttmacher, a family planning research and advocacy organization that receives some money from Planned Parenthood.

        “Many factors undoubtedly account for these behavioral changes and are much harder to measure. But it is clear that efforts to promote both responsible sexual decision-making and effective contraceptive practice can have big impacts.”

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