- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The nation’s teen pregnancy rate has fallen by nearly 30 percent since 1990, and a national campaign has set a new 10-year goal to bring it down by another third.

It’s time to “celebrate the progress … and push on,” Sarah S. Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said at a Capitol Hill event yesterday.

Projects will include researching boys and young men in pregnancy prevention, addressing the high pregnancy rates of Hispanic youths and encouraging states to set their own goals to reduce teen pregnancies, Mrs. Brown said.

The U.S. teen pregnancy rate peaked in 1990 but fell by 28 percent as of 2000, the latest year for which data are available. The campaign yesterday projected further declines in 2003 and 2005, based on teen birthrates, which are continuing to fall.

Pregnancy rate data lag birthrate data by several years because the former is based on birthrates, abortions and miscarriages.

Campaign leaders and members of Congress yesterday credited parents, teens, schools, communities, religious groups, policy-makers and the press for reducing the pregnancy rate — a feat that was not expected, said Isabel Sawhill, campaign president and Brookings Institution scholar.

When the campaign was launched in 1996 with a goal of reducing teen pregnancy by a third in 10 years, “many people said you’ll never be able to do that. … It’s too ambitious a goal,” Mrs. Sawhill said.

She said four out of 10 girls who were teenagers in 1996 would become pregnant at some point before turning 20. Today, the number is three out of 10, and if the campaign’s goal is achieved in 2015, two out of 10 will become pregnant as a teen, she said.

Locally, in 2000, the District had the nation’s highest pregnancy rate, with 128 pregnancies per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19. However, this is a 50 percent decline from 1992, when there were 254 pregnancies per 1,000 in that age group, according to data from the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Similarly, in that period, pregnancy rates fell by 29 percent in Virginia, to 72 pregnancies per 1,000 teens; by 23 percent in Maryland, to 91 pregnancies per 1,000 teens; and 21 percent in West Virginia, to 67 pregnancies per 1,000 teens.

As part of its mission, the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy often finds itself in the “tiresome” abstinence-versus-contraceptives debate, Mrs. Brown said. Both approaches work and are needed, she said yesterday.

“Whatever you’re doing, don’t stop,” she said.

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