- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

Teen pregnancies, which dropped nationwide by 7.8 percent between 1995 and 1997, rose by nearly 9 percent in the District of Columbia the highest increase in the country, according to a federal report released Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows an increase from 229.6 pregnancies per 1,000 teens age 15 to 19 in 1995 to 249.7 in 1997 an 8.8 percent rise.

"If anything, this is a conservative estimate of teen pregnancy," said CDC spokeswoman Mary Goodwin of the report.

Connecticut, which rose 1.8 percent, and Utah, which rose 0.3 percent, were the only areas to show an increase. All 41 other areas in the report dropped. Overall, the teen pregnancy rate fell from 98.3 per 1,000 teens in 1995 to 90.7 in 1997.

The D.C. Department of Health, however, said the CDC report produced inaccurate numbers for the District.

Deputy Director Ronald Lewis said the city's rates actually dropped from 204.3 per 1,000 adolescent teens in 1995 to 152.1 per 1,000 in 1997 a 25.5 percent decrease.

Mr. Lewis said the CDC's numbers are based on estimates. "We have the actuals."

Both the CDC and the District calculate the number of teen pregnancies as the sum of live births, legally induced abortions and estimated fetal losses, such as miscarriages.

Ms. Goodwin said numbers for the District have to be "interpreted with caution."

Brenda Miller, director of the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said the city's numbers may not seem unusually high when compared to other cities, but "we always get compared to states."

Experts gave several reasons for the District's high teen pregnancy rate compared to the rest of the country. "Many socio-economic factors contribute toward teen pregnancy rates," Mr. Lewis said.

One is the lack of "opportunity for constructive activity for children," said Ms. Miller.

Another is the higher abortion rates in D.C. because "D.C. has a large influx of women for abortions" from neighboring states, said Ms. Goodwin.

Mr. Lewis said the District has increased efforts to fight teen pregnancy.

"We are trying to work more diligently and create more initiatives. We see this as an area where we need to continue to pay attention and put more effort," he said.

Regionally, Maryland scored highest on the CDC list with a 19.8 percent drop in rates. Virginia also recorded a decline just slightly below the national average at 7.5 percent.

Andy Hannon of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Maryland said several programs, both at the community and government levels, had contributed to reducing the rates of teen pregnancy in that state.

"A greater number of women today are using Depo-Provera, which is a more effective method of contraception," Mr. Hannon said.

However, he pointed out, the decline was not consistent across the state. For instance, "Baltimore City has not been as successful as some other counties in Maryland," he said.

Both the District and Maryland said their efforts to control teen pregnancy rates focused on contraception and encouraging abstinence.

Maryland, for instance, distributes between 4 million and 5 million condoms every year at 700 sites around the state.

The CDC reports says the United States has the highest adolescent pregnancy rate among developed countries, with more than 800,000 teens becoming pregnant each year.

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