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