Teen-age pregnancies decline in city City may lose top ranking for under-14 pregnancies.

November 26, 1991|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Evening Sun Staff

Pregnancies among Maryland's school-age teen-agers dropped by more than 10 percent over the past two years, the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy announced today.

The decrease, virtually the same in Baltimore as in the rest of the state, may mean the city is about to lose its grip on one of its most ignominious statistical claims -- a No. 1 ranking nationwide for births to girls 14 and under.

"We have been on the phone all last week, trying to find out where the city stands [nationwide] and we can't get it," said Browyn Mayden, the council's executive director.

Still, given the drop in Baltimore, Mayden said, she is confident that the city can now brag, "We're NOT No. 1."

The number of births to teen-agers under age 18 in Baltimore dropped 10.6 percent between 1988 and 1990, from 1,453 to 1,304, according to the council.

However, that's still higher than the number of births in 1986 in Baltimore, which was 1,288.

Statewide, births to teens dropped 5.6 percent in 1989 and 5 percent in 1990: decreasing from 3,340 to 3,278 in 1989, than dropping to 2,899 in 1990.

The number of abortions also dropped in 1989, according to the council. The number of abortions for girls 17 and younger dropped 16.6 percent statewide and 31.8 percent in Baltimore in 1989. Overall, there were 2,103 abortions among Maryland's under-18 females in 1989, compared with 2,522 in 1988.

Statistics for 1990 were not available.

At the same time, Mayden said, national statistics indicate that teen-agers are more sexually active than ever.

"In analyzing this data, we see we're having success at pregnancy prevention," Mayden said. "Young people are clearly not getting pregnant -- that's what the numbers are telling us today."

Over the past four years, the council has developed a two-pronged plan for prevention.

Among students ages 9 to 14, the council stresses abstinence, using school-based programs and a slick media campaign known as "Campaign for Our Children." The idea is to persuade girls and boys to forestall sexual activity.

Hal Donofrio, the campaign's chairman, said surveys by the Baltimore Health Department at four city middle schools indicated that the messages were getting through.

Students could repeat the slogans verbatim, he said, and 70 percent said the campaign encouraged them to talk about sex with their parents.

"We're not guaranteeing absolute victor, but we've won a few battles," Donofrio said. "We hope it's not a fluke, we don't think it is."

With older students, the emphasis is on preventing pregnancy through contraception, Mayden said. In five high-school and two middle-school clinics in the city, students can receive condoms and oral contraceptives.

Family planning clinics also opened in areas easily accessible to teen-agers, such as Mondawmin Mall, said Dr. Russ Moy, director of Maternal Health and Family Planning for the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Meanwhile, the "Three for Free" campaign makes condoms available in 400 sites statewide, including college campuses and clinics.

The program has distributed more than 4 million condoms, 1 million in the city.

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