Policy & Practice


Pre-15 Pregnancy More Likely

Teenage girls who have sex before the age of 15 years are more likely to become pregnant than are teens who delay sex, according to an analysis from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. About 46% of girls who have had sex at least once before age 15 report having been pregnant, compared with 25% of girls who delayed sex until age 15 or older. And 22% of teenage boys who have had sex at least once before age 15 report having been involved in a pregnancy, compared with 9% who waited to have sex. While the overall teenage pregnancy rate has been decreasing since 1990, younger teens and those with multiple partners still are at high risk for pregnancy. “Much still needs to be done to convince young people of the value of delaying sexual activity and to convince those who are sexually active to use contraception consistently and carefully,” Sarah Brown, director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said in a statement. The analysis is based on 2002 data from the National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reproductive Health Disparities

From 1994 to 2001, unintended pregnancies increased 29% among women living below the poverty level and fell among higher-income women, according to an analysis from the Guttmacher Institute. Poor women, black women, and unmarried women are the groups most likely to have an abortion due to unintended pregnancy, the researchers wrote. The report also noted that certain groups of women, such as young women and low-income women, are more likely to obtain an abortion later in pregnancy. “Although abortion remains legal, a two-tiered system is already emerging in our country,” Sharon L. Camp, Ph.D., who is president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, said in a statement. “Wealthier women have quick, convenient access to contraceptives and safe, early abortions, while poor women are less able to prevent pregnancies through contraception and are then forced to jump over a series of obstacles in order to obtain an abortion.” The report is available online at

Stem Cell Committee Named

The National Academies' Institute of Medicine and National Research Council have appointed a committee to “monitor and revise” the voluntary guidelines on the conduct of human embryonic stem cell research that were issued last year by the National Academies. The panel is seeking comments on the guidelines and will hold workshops to keep informed about developments in the field. The 14-member committee will be cochaired by R. Alta Charo, professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, and Richard O. Hynes, Ph.D., investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor of cancer research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Ellison Medical Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will fund the committee.

Maryland Passes Stem Cell Bill

The Maryland legislature passed a bill establishing a $15 million fund to promote stem cell research in the state. The measure, which passed by a vote of 90–48 and was signed by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich in April, will set procedures for reviewing research projects involving either adult or embryonic stem cells. An independent commission—including representatives from the patient advocate, biotechnology, and ethics communities—will administer grants to universities and private sector researchers. “This new law will solidify Maryland's reputation as a national leader in medical research, attract and retain biotech companies and researchers to Maryland, and offer hope to millions of American suffering from debilitating conditions,” Ehrlich said in a statement.

Teen Perceptions on Oral Sex

More than one-quarter of teenagers in a recent survey did not know that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be passed through oral sex, according to a study published in the March issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. In contrast, only 2% of the teens were unaware that STDs can be transmitted through “vaginal intercourse with ejaculation.” The study included a survey of more than 1,300 British teenagers and analysis of sexual event diaries of more than 100 of the teenagers. Knowledge of STD transmission improved among older girls. Only 5% of 18-year-old girls did not know that STDs could be transmitted during oral sex, compared to about 22% of 16-year-old girls. “Given the prevalence of oral sex and the lack of knowledge about its risks among young people, it is essential that those charged with teaching youth about sexual issues—whether in schools, in clinics or in homes—be encouraged to broaden the scope of their coverage,” the researchers wrote.

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