- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2004

The nation’s teen pregnancy, birth and abortion rates fell in 2000, marking a steady decade-long decline, a study released yesterday said.

A report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said teen pregnancy statistics dropped 28 percent from 1990. According to the study, the 2000 pregnancy rate was 83.6 pregnancies per 1,000 teen girls, ages 15 to 19. In 1990, teen pregnancies peaked at 116.9 per 1,000 teens.

The 2000 teen birthrate fell to 47.7 births per 1,000 teen girls, significantly down from the peak birthrate of 61.8 births per 1,000 teens in 1991. And the teen abortion rate for the same year was 24 abortions per 1,000 teens, which is down slightly from the 1999 rate of 24.7 abortions per 1,000 teens.

“We hope that today’s news documenting a decade of progress in reducing teen pregnancy in the United States is greeted with praise for teens themselves and a growing recognition that when teen pregnancy declines, we all gain — overall child and family well-being improves, the U.S. work force is stronger, school performance gets better and poverty is directly attacked,” said Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

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

Also in 2000, about 33 out of 100 teen pregnancies ended in abortion, down from 1990, when roughly 40 out of 100 teen pregnancies were terminated.

These numbers are all very good news, said Adrienne Verrilli, spokeswoman for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

However, the state-by-state data show real differences in the way states are handling their teen reproductive issues, she said.

States with high teen pregnancy rates “might want to sit back and look at what’s happening in their communities,” Ms. Verrilli said.

Maine, for instance, has stepped up its comprehensive sex education to teens and seen major reductions in its teen pregnancy rate, she said. In contrast, states trying an abstinence-education approach, such as Texas, Arizona and Mississippi, still have high pregnancy rates.

The Guttmacher data show that since 1992, Maine’s pregnancy rate has fallen by 26 percent, to 52 pregnancies per 1,000 teens, one of the lowest in the nation.

Arizona, Mississippi and Texas, on the other hand, all had very high pregnancy rates in 2000, with each exceeding 100 pregnancies per 1,000 teens. However, all three states have seen double-digit declines between 1992 and 2000, with rates falling 21 percent in Arizona, 15 percent in Mississippi and 17 percent in Texas.

Locally, the District still led the nation in teen pregnancies in 2000, with 128 pregnancies per 1,000 teens. This is a 50 percent decline from 1992, when there were 254 pregnancies per 1,000 teens in the District.

The 2000 pregnancy rate in Maryland was 91 pregnancies per 1,000 teens; in Virginia, it was 72 pregnancies per 1,000 teens and in West Virginia, it was 67 pregnancies per 1,000 teens. All three states had double-digit declines of 23 percent, 29 percent, and 21 percent, respectively.

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