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Teen Pregnancies: Grim Statistics

May 07, 1985

While controversy rages in the Capistrano Valley Unified School District over its family-life curriculum, which includes sex education, Orange County health-care officials are seeking $400,000 from the state for a program that will help identify pregnant teen-agers and keep them in school.

It's a program that the state and community should support.

The figures are grim. In 1983 (the last year for which figures are available) there were 931 live babies born to Orange County teen-agers under the age of 17. Pregnancies are usually close to three times that total. Infant mortality and abortions account for the difference.

According to the state, about 8 out of every 10 pregnant teen-agers don't graduate from high school. Other statistics show that about 30% of the fathers drop out, too. And that about 65% of those receiving public support in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program were or are teen-age mothers.

The statistics are stacked against those teenagers. And each statistic is another broken life or tragedy.

Babies born to teen-age mothers are more likely to die in their first year of life than are babies born to women in their 20s, or even women in the so-called high-risk age group of over 40. And the death rate for mothers is also significantly higher among teen-agers.

Economically, teen-age pregnancy also exacts a heavy price. Most teen-age mothers, and many fathers, will fail to finish their education, which dooms them to much lower incomes for the rest of their lives. And teen-age mothers who marry have a divorce rate nearly three times higher than women who waited until their 20s to have children.

That's why it's so vital that programs be developed to identify pregnant adolescents and provide them with counseling and services that they need to help them finish their education, receive early and adequate medical care and avoid the repeat pregnancies that occur within two years in a majority of the cases.

Also needed are sex-education courses that can help prevent teen-age pregnancies and school district programs that provide not only school instruction but also child care for teen-age mothers. Only seven school districts now offer such programs for teen-age mothers, and only about 300 mothers are enrolled.

Without that kind of help, the adolescents and the community will be paying a far greater price for many years to come.

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