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American Indian teen pregnancies showing a dramatic decline

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WASHINGTON - American Indian teens are having fewer babies and the decline is dramatic.

The 1990s showed the largest decline in teen birth rates among women 15 to19, but the largest and most dramatic decline occurred between 1998 and 1999 for young American Indian women. Data show a 6 percent decline, as indicated by the latest report from the Center for Disease Control National Center for Health Statistics.

"In the last few years, we've made remarkable progress in reducing the teen birth rate," said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala.

"Parents, local communities government and teens themselves have been part of writing this success story. Everyone benefits when teens postpone pregnancy until they are ready to assume the responsibility and appreciate the wonder of raising children," she said.

Stephanie Ventura, demographer for the CDC, said there were a number of factors that led to the decline of teen births in Indian country. "There was a leveling off of teen sexual activity, more contraceptives, and we found there were a number of programs across the country to educate young people. The programs in local areas and in states focused on teen issues in the communities and they tried to reach out to teens.

"Also, in general, the economy in the 1990s has given teens the idea they can strive for a career with goals and start a family later," she said.

The drop in the American Indian birth rate for teens in 1998 and 1999 showed a "striking decline." American Indian teen-age pregnancies are still higher in the midway level between the white community and the Hispanic community, Ventura said.

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The decline in American Indian teen births in South Dakota between 1991 and 1998 dropped by 20 percent. Arizona showed the same 20 percent drop and New Mexico showed a 19 percent drop.

Minnesota data show a strong decline at 36 percent, North Dakota 23 percent and Montana with a 31 percent decline.

The CDC continually monitors the birth rate of teen-agers and has kept data since 1991.

The birth rate for teen-agers over all in the country declined at a 3 percent rate between 1998 and 1999. There were 49.6 births per 1,000 in the general population in women 15 to19.

The report also indicated a drop in pregnancies in unmarried women and that a record high level of women received prenatal care.

"This new information confirms that we continue to make impressive strides in addressing one of the most important social problems facing our nation," President Bill Clinton said.

"These encouraging trends cut across both younger and older teens, married and unmarried teens, all states, and all racial and ethnic groups. Together, we are helping more young people make responsible choices and delay parenting until they are financially and emotionally ready," Clinton said.