Steep Rise in Births to Teen-Agers Is Reported : Pregnancy: The biggest increase is among 13- and 14-year-old girls. A county task force hopes to form a community coalition to address the problem.


The number of Ventura County girls ages 13 to 16 years old who are having babies has risen dramatically over the past eight years, a new report shows.

The report by the Ventura County Task Force to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which will be presented today to the county Board of Supervisors, shows the number of babies born to teen-agers younger than 17 years old has increased by about 46%, from 147 in 1986 to 214 in 1993.

The increase is highest among 13- and 14-year-olds, for whom the number of births has risen by three-quarters from 16 in 1986 to 28 in 1993.


To address the problem, the task force is calling on county supervisors to help organize a countywide coalition of religious institutions, schools, nonprofit agencies and youth clubs, task force chairwoman Judy Bysshe said.

“If we really want to address teen pregnancy, we need to have a community-wide effort,” Bysshe said.

The coalition would have at least two aims: to encourage teen-agers to abstain from sexual activity and to provide child care, job training and other support to teen-age mothers.

Appointed by county supervisors two years ago and headed by the Ventura County Commission on Women, the teen pregnancy task force consisted of about three dozen people from across the political spectrum--from representatives of anti-abortion groups to local directors of Planned Parenthood.

Despite their different perspectives on some issues, such as abortion and the use of contraceptives by teen-agers, task force members began their study with one shared premise: that young girls should not be having babies, Bysshe said.


Teen-agers who have children often drop out of high school or, if they graduate, fail to attend college or get the vocational training they need to land good jobs, task force members said.


Without good-paying jobs and frequently without any help from the children’s fathers, many young mothers become mired in poverty.

Not only are most teen-agers ill-prepared to become parents, task force members said, but many are also too young to have sexual relationships.

“We agree that teens should be abstinent,” said Nikki Davis, a task force member who heads a county public health program for teen-age parents. “That’s something we all would like to see.”

After holding focus groups with roughly 120 county teen-agers, task force members concluded that many young people become sexually active for the wrong reasons. They are pressured by partners into having sex or they use physical intimacy to make up for an absence of emotional warmth in their lives, they said.

Although the state Department of Education already requires schools to discuss the benefits of sexual abstinence as part of sex education, task force members said educators could emphasize the topic even more.

“It needs to be implemented more in sex education curricula,” said April Fernandez, a task force member and director of the Planned Parenthood center in Ventura.


In addition, children need to hear messages about sexual abstinence in other places besides the classroom, task force members said.

“They need to hear it from everyone in their community,” said task force member Karen Johnson, who is on the board of the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Thousand Oaks, an organization opposed to abortion that advises pregnant teen-agers about alternatives to abortion.


Religious institutions, Boys & Girls clubs and other groups could launch comprehensive programs to teach teen-agers how to resist pressures to have sex before they are ready, Bysshe said.

Community groups will have to do most of the work to reduce the number of teen-age pregnancies in the county because the cash-strapped county lacks the money for such efforts, she said.

“The bottom line is there isn’t any cash to do any program,” Bysshe said. “The only way anything is going to happen is that agencies pull together.”

Births Among Ventura County Teens

Age of Mother 13 14 15 16 Total Births per year 1986 2 14 36 95 147 1987 15 22 70 8 115 1988 4 11 51 117 183 1989 2 16 48 125 191 1990 1 16 55 116 188 1991 2 13 59 136 210 1992 25* 25* 67 154 246 1993 28* 28* 45 141 214


* Includes both 13- and 14-year-olds

Source: Ventura County Task Force to Prevent Teen Pregnancy