Source: The Mercury, 8 May, 1997, p.3
By EVE LAMB AN estimated 30% of Tasmanian girls become pregnant between the ages of 15 and 19. State Family Planning Association executive director Paul Duncombe yesterday estimated the state's figures were in line with those released for the nation as a whole. Figures provided by the Victorian counselling and education service, Open Doors, show three of every 10 Australian girls become pregnant between the ages of 15 and 19 and more than 60% of all teenage pregnancies end in abortion. Open Doors counselling director Anne Neville said the figures were based on findings by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the federal Human Services Department. She said the finding was also based on figures recorded by the South Australian Government. Mr Duncombe said South Australia and the Northern Territory were the only states to keep accurate statistics relating to teenage pregnancy and abortion. He said the politicising of the issue prevented concise statistics being recorded in most states, including Tasmania, and also hindered the ability of pregnant teenagers to get the help and counselling they needed. "Most teenagers' experience of pregnancy loss is painful lonely and often overlooked," Ms Neville said. She said during Pregnancy Loss Awareness Week this week Open Doors would particularly aim to draw attention to the often hidden grief experienced by teenagers after pregnancy termination, and the need for counselling after a termination. "The need for secrecy may mean that the young girl's parents and other significant people in her life are not aware of her loss," Ms Neville said. "Often the only support person is her boyfriend who is also struggling with his own feelings of overwhelming responsibility and sadness. "Most teenage relationships do not survive the abortion experience and so the young girl's feelings of despair and emptiness can be compounded by a double loss. "Teenagers need to have more access to professional pregnancy loss counselling following a termination." Mr Duncombe said the politicising of the issue had prevented it moving into the mainstream of health care which decreased pregnant teenagers' ability to receive impartial counselling. "If a person gets good counselling and the chance to make up her own mind and not be pressured one way or another, the grief and suffering is likely to be much less," Mr Duncombe said. "There is a danger that people won't find an impartial counsellor. "I even know of someone being told you can't get an abortion in Tasmania." Abortions are performed in Tasmania at public and private hospitals and at the Womens Health Foundation clinic in Moonah. In 1996 a total of 112 pregnant 14- to 19-year-olds used the Family Planning Tasmania's counselling service. Of those, only five 17- year-olds and six 19-year-olds had planned their pregnancy. Fifty one of the 112 who used the counselling service chose an abortion, 38 continued with their pregnancy three had miscarriages and the choice of 20 remained unknown.
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