- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

The number of teen pregnancies fell to a record low in 1999, and the number of teen abortions fell to a near-record low, according to new national data from the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

This “report card on teen pregnancy … is an A-plus,” said Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which has the goal of reducing the teen pregnancy rate by one-third by 2005.

“Thanks to the increasing number of teens who are making better decisions about their future, the U.S. is on a nine-year roll of steady and robust declines in teen pregnancy,” she said.

Pregnancy data are computed by combining national birth data and estimated numbers of abortions and miscarriages. Because of difficulties in gathering abortion data, pregnancy reports lag about two years behind birth data reports.

The Guttmacher Institute (AGI), the research arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, is a respected source of abortion data.

In a report released May 1, AGI researchers said there was a record low of 835,930 pregnancies among girls ages 15 to 19 in 1999. Of these pregnancies, 475,745 ended in birth, 240,940 ended in abortion and slightly more than 119,000 ended in miscarriage.

The number of pregnancies was 27 percent lower than in 1980, when there was a record high of 1,151,850 pregnancies in that age group. The number of abortions was the fewest since 1973, when there were 231,900 abortions in this age group. The fewest abortions were 191,000 in 1972. The number of teen miscarriages in 1999 was a record low.

Pregnancy and abortion rates followed suit:

• The 1999 pregnancy rate was 85.6 pregnancies per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19, a 27 percent decline from the record high 116.9 pregnancies per 1,000 teens, reached in 1990.

• The 1999 abortion rate of 24.7 abortions per 1,000 pregnancies was the lowest since 1973, when the rate was 22.8 abortions. The lowest abortion rate was 19.1 abortions per 1,000 pregnancies, in 1972.

AGI researchers credited the pregnancy rate declines to better contraceptive use, plus a small increase in sexual abstinence.

In one 1999 report, AGI researchers concluded that about a fourth of the decline in teen pregnancy between 1988 and 1995 was due to increased abstinence and the rest was attributed to “changes in the behavior of sexually experienced teens.”

One significant behavior change was more use of long-lasting birth-control products, such as injectable Depo-Provera or implantable Norplant, AGI researchers said. Other researchers believe teen abstinence is the primary reason pregnancy rates have fallen.

Between 1991 and 1995, the number of teens who said they had not had sex in the past year rose from 53 percent to 56 percent, said Dr. Joanna K. Mohn, who published her study with colleagues in the spring issue of the peer-reviewed journal Adolescent & Family Health.

This increase in teen abstinence accounted for 67 percent of the decline in pregnancies. The rest of the decline was associated with better contraceptive use among the sexually active teens, Dr. Mohn said.

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