Teen pregnancies and teen births have been on the decline in America for more than a decade. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy reports that, since its peak in 1991, the teen birthrate has dropped by one-third, and the teen pregnancy rate has decreased about 28 percent since its 1990 peak. But there are pockets, such as Maryland's Washington County, where the teen birthrate is still high, reminding us that the campaign is not over.
The latest state data show that 48.6 out of 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 gave birth in Washington County in 2004, compared with 41.2 nationally and 32.3 statewide. Baltimore still tops the state, with a rate of 68.2, but the city's rate is generally at a historic low. Washington County's struggle reinforces the fact that teen pregnancies and births are not just inner-city problems.
As documented by The Sun's Joanna Daemmrich, the reasons why the teen birthrate remains so high in that part of Western Maryland are complicated, including a social norm of early parenthood among many families, low expectations that young women will pursue an education beyond high school and resistance to abortion or adoption. But as one of the young mothers lamented: "My life has changed a lot. You shouldn't be having babies in your teens. I mean it."