More Pregnant Girls Said Opting To Bear Their Babies

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An increasing number of girls under age 15 who become pregnant appear to be carrying their pregnancies to term rather than obtaining abortions, an annual federal report indicates.

The ratio of abortions to live births for girls in that age group in 1988 was lower than in any other year since 1972, according to the survey of legal abortions released late last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

There were 949 legal abortions for each 1,000 live births among that group in 1988, the last year for which data were available, the survey found.

That compares with 1,689 legal abortions for each 1,000 live births for girls under age 15 in 1972, said Lisa M. Koonin, the chief author of the c.D.c. report. In 1987, the figure was 1,275 abortions per 1,000 births.

Since 1972, the report says, the, abortion ratio has declined for all age groups, particularly for women age 30 or older.

The U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade removed most legal barriers to abortion. But at least 18 states currently enforce a parental-consent or -notification requirement for minors seeking abortions, according to the National Abortion Rights Action League.

The C.D.C. collected its data from the 50 states as well as from New York City and the District of Columbia.

Reduced Access?

Since 1980, the total number of legal abortions reported to the C.D.C. has remained stable, varying each year by less than 3 percent. Between 1987 and 1988, for example, the data showed a 1.3 percent increase, to 1.37 million abortions reported nationwide.

Increases in the number of live births, particularly among women in their 30's, may account for the declining ratio of abortions even though the number of such procedures has remained steady, the report suggests. Among young teenagers, the decreasing abortion ratio could be explained in a number of ways, said Susan Tew, a spokesman for the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a private group that tracks reproductive issues.

Younger girls may have less access to abortion providers because of tighter parental-notification laws in their states, she suggested, or because fewer abortion providers are practicing outside metropolitan areas.

Even if legislative action has not actually curtailed access to abortions, Ms. Tew said, the perception of a change could keep teenagers away.

"Maybe more teenagers are feeling the option to terminate a pregnancy may not be as available to them," she said.

Vol. 11, Issue 02, Page 9

Published in Print: September 11, 1991, as More Pregnant Girls Said Opting To Bear Their Babies
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