Source: The Mercury, Friday, July 15, 1994, p.9


Report questions sex education

Girls as young
as 12 have
babies: study

AUSTRALIAN girls as young as
12 are having babies and each
year more than 3000 girls aged 16
or younger give birth or have an
abortion, new figures show.

  At least seven children aged
12,18 aged 13, 103 aged 14 and
375 aged 15 had babies in Aus-
tralia in 1991, said to Associate
Professor Paul Lancaster, of the
Australian Institute of Health
and Welfare.

There were 1172 girls aged 16
who gave birth, the report, Aus-
tralia's Mothers and Babies 1991,
showed.

Four in five girls aged 16 or
under who had babies were not
married. Professor Lancaster,
director of the AIHW's National
Perinatal Statistics Unit and the
report's lead author, said.

  The report is based largely on
notifications from midwives and
doctors around Australia.

  Almost 15,000 women and girls
aged under 20 gave birth in 1991.

  Most pregnancies in teenage
and younger girls were probably
unplanned, and the birth rates
suggested children were not
being taught enough about sex,
abstinence, contraception and
sexually transmitted diseases, he
said.

  "Clearly, at least for some in
the community, the messages are
not getting across," he said in an
interview.

  Professor Lancaster said it was
hard to evaluate' how effective
family planning services were as
most states did not collect abor-
tion statistics.

  South Australian abortion data
showed that for every 100 SA
teenagers who have babies, about
85 have an abortion, and for
every SA girl under 15 who has a
baby, there are two girls in that
age range who have an abortion,
he said.

  "That leads me to conclude that
there may have been something
of the order of 400 pregnancies in
the very young . . . girls."

  If these SA figures applied to
the national data, there would
have been about 1500 abortions
to girls aged 16 year or less in
Australia in 1991.

  Australia was also deficient in
national data on the delivery of
sex education and use of contra-
ception,he said.

  "The approach to [teenage pre-
gnancies] seems to be prevention,
and prevention needs education
and knowledge and information
about sexual activity," he said.

  "This information is becoming
even more important [not only] in
the prevention of teenage preg
nancy but also the whole issue to
do with Aids and other sexually
transmitted diseases.

  "If they are getting pregnant
and having babies their bodies
are ready.

  "Whatever their background,
they haven't reached physical
and, certainly, emotional matur-
ity."

  At the other end of the age
range, the study shows 121
women aged 45 or older and 3530
aged 40 to 45 gave birth that
year.

  There were a total of 253,141
confinements, producing 254,628
live babies and 2006 stillborn
children.

  The report is the first to com-
bine data on mothers and babies
from all states and territories.
               AAP


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