Number of Pregnancies Among Young Hispanic Women Plays Large Part in Rising Teenage Birth Rates in Montgomery County, Md.
The birth rate among females ages 15 to 19 in Montgomery County, Md., which has one of the lowest overall birth rates in the nation, increased by 16% between 2002 and 2005, in large part because of pregnancies among Hispanic teenagers, according to a report presented at a County Council meeting on Thursday, the Washington Post reports. At the same time, the birth rate for women in the age group dropped nationally and statewide.
The report, which was presented to the county's Health and Human Services Committee and Education Committee, found that the birth rate among Hispanics ages 18 and 19 increased by more than 30% in the past 10 years. Birth rates among black teenagers ages 18 and 19 have declined over the past decade and are close to that of white women in the same age group, according to the report.
According to the report, a survey of Hispanic teenagers and adults by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that most of the Hispanic community does not consider teen births to be a problem or believe it interferes with the future of the mother. The campaign's survey showed that Hispanic teenagers are less likely to talk with their parents about sex compared with other teenage girls, and advocates said that increasing communication between parents and their children is important. Candace Kattar, executive director of Maryland-based Hispanic not-for-profit Identity, said, "A lot of the teen [Hispanic] moms are actually quite happy to be pregnant as teenagers." Pilar Torres, executive director of Hispanic not-for-profit Centro Familia, said the "whole cultural piece is enormous."
George Leventhal, chair of the County Council's Health and Human Services Committee, called Kattar's comments "striking," adding, "We make assumptions that these poor, uneducated girls are acting against their own best interest. [Kattar's] point was that some of them were making a decision in what they think is in their own interest." The council plans to continue the discussion in coming months, Leventhal said (Minaya, Washington Post, 7/27).