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Teen Pregnancy, Abortion Rates Dip

Posted - Jan. 21, 2004 at 8:20 a.m.



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Fewer teenagers are getting pregnant and having abortions in Washington, according a new report from the state Department of Health.

In 2002, the latest year for which data are available, the rate of teen pregnancies for females between ages 15 and 19 dropped from 59.6 per 1,000 teens in 2001 to 55.9 per 1,000.

For teenagers between 15 and 17, the abortion rate in 2002 was 14 per 1,000, compared with a rate of 15.1 in 2001. Women between 20 and 24 had the highest abortion rate of any age group with 41.9 abortions per 1,000 women, compared with 43.9 in 2001.

The data reflect a decade-long trend after a surge in teen pregnancies and abortions in the late 1980s, according to Phyllis Reed, author of the report and researcher for the state Health Department's Center for Health Statistics.

"I think young woman have access to more information, and it's becoming more 'in,' so to speak, to take care of yourself and be healthy, and that includes responsible sexual behavior," said Rebecca Heartz, executive director at Medina Children's Services.

Medina provides adoption and parenting counseling to about 100 young women every year. The center's programs are designed to teach teens parenting skills, but also help them set goals -- graduating from high school and learning skills they can use to find work, Heartz said.

"As they start experiencing some success, they feel better about themselves and they understand it's very difficult to raise a child today," Heartz said. In King County, health officials also have noted a decline in teen pregnancies, said Kathy Carson, manager for parent and child health services at Public Health -- Seattle & King County.

Pregnancy rates among minority teens, which remain higher than the total teen population, also are decreasing in King County, except among Latinas, in which the numbers appear to be leveling off, Carson said.

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