Programs that work

December 02, 1991

The newest statistics from the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy are clear evidence that the state is making progress. Over the last two years, not only did the number of births to girls 18 and younger drop 10 percent, but the number of abortions for girls under 18 fell 16 percent as well.

Since teen-age pregnancy is the hub of the poverty cycle, the benefits of such dramatic reductions are plain. Nonetheless, the state is a long way from having solved the problem: Thousands of Maryland children still become pregnant every year. The long-term effects -- on the young mothers, their babies and society, overall -- are devastating.

In the wake of the good news, what is needed now is diligence, and funding, for programs that obviously work. For starters, the state must hold the line on family-planning funding, and continue supporting Campaign for Our Children -- a unique public-private enterprise that reaches out to kids statewide with advertising, counseling and education. In addition, the number of health clinics at which teen-agers can receive contraceptives should to be expanded: Now, there are only five high-school and two middle-school clinics in Baltimore, where the numbers of teen-age pregnancies are higher than other areas of the state.

None of this is to encourage promiscuity but simply to recognize that the council's two-pronged approach -- stressing abstinence as well as teaching pregnancy prevention -- works, and that efforts need to be stepped up. Maryland is finally on the right track. The challenge, in tight budget times, is to stay the course.

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