Teen pregnancy and abortion rates decline

Rate of teen pregnancies down 28% from 1990 peak

February 20, 2004|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

A new, state-by-state breakdown of teen-age pregnancy and abortion rates in 2000 shows declines among all racial and ethnic groups and in every state, continuing a decade-long downward trend that researchers attribute to better contraception and less, or more cautious, sexual activity.

Overall, the national pregnancy rate declined by 2 percent between 1999 and 2000, and fell by 28 percent from its 1990 peak, according to data compiled by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights

Nationwide, one-third of pregnancies among 15- to 19-year-olds ended in abortion in 2000, and the rate of abortions per 1,000 women in that age group declined to 24, down from a high of 43.5 per 1,000 in the late 1980s.

But the data released yesterday also showed that while the pregnancy rate among black teen-agers dropped by 32 percent over the decade, more steeply than in other groups, the percentage of their pregnancies that ended in abortion rose to 41.5 percent, up from a low of 39.6 percent in 1995.

Stanley K. Henshaw, a senior fellow at the institute, offered several possible reasons for an increase in the abortion-to-pregnancy ratio among black teen-agers. One is the withdrawal of Norplant, a long-lasting, implanted hormonal contraceptive, after lawsuits over difficulty in removing it. In the early 1990s, Henshaw said, Norplant was particularly popular with black teen-age women who already had one child, a group also more likely to end a pregnancy through abortion.

Other reasons, he said, could be changes in the economy and in welfare policy that raised the cost of having a child. An earlier analysis by the institute concluded that between 1994 and 2000, abortion rates increased by more than 23 percent among adolescents and adult women with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level. For both age groups of higher-income women, the abortion rate decreased by as much as 39 percent.

The variation among states on all measures is striking. Teen-age pregnancy rates in 2000 were highest in Nevada, at 113 per 1,000 women 15 to 19, and lowest in North Dakota, at 42 per 1,000, well below the national average of 83.6. Abortion rates were highest in New Jersey, with 47 abortions per 1,000 women age 15 to 19. New Jersey also had the highest pregnancy rates among black teen-agers, 209 per 1,000, followed by Wisconsin, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Oregon. And it had the highest percentage of teen-age pregnancies ending in abortion, 60 percent, followed by at least 50 percent in New York, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. By contrast, only 13 percent of pregnancies in Kentucky and Utah ended in abortion, and from 15 to 16 percent of pregnancies were aborted in Louisiana, Arkansas and South Dakota.

Pregnancy rates for non-Hispanic white teen-agers were highest in Arkansas (77 per 1,000) and lowest in North Dakota (33 per 1,000). For Hispanics, the lowest rates were in Mississippi (71 per 1,000), and the highest in Georgia (169 per 1,000). The lowest rates among black teen-agers were in Utah (71 per 1,000), followed by New Mexico, West Virginia, Rhode Island and Colorado.

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