Birth figures cloud issue of teen pregnancies

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 December, 2007, 12:00am

Government figures that show a declining trend in the number of live births by mothers under the age of 18 in the past decade fail to reflect the seriousness of the teenage pregnancy problem, a concern group has warned.

Mother's Choice supervisor of pregnant girls Sophia Wong Chak-shan made the remarks in the wake of Tuesday's incident in which a 16-year-old mother threw her newborn boy from her 24th-floor flat in Yuen Long.

About 329 live births by mothers under 18 were reported in 1997, compared with 185 last year, according to the Census and Statistics Department.

'But the numbers only show those who gave birth and do not include those who have abortions,' said Ms Wong, adding: 'It is very difficult to find figures which present the whole picture.'

The charity handled 132 cases between April last year and this March, but 129 cases had already been reported between this April and last month. 'The trend is on the rise,' she warned.

The young girl involved in Tuesday's incident was arrested after her baby, with his umbilical cord still attached, was certified dead on the walkway outside Yin Ping House, Long Ping Estate.

'We got in touch with the girl's close friends to provide counselling and social workers will follow up their cases,' said Cumberland Presbyterian Church Yao Dao Secondary School principal Lau Chi-kuen.

He said all students, teachers and parents had been informed of the incident, and the school social worker and educational psychologist were ready to provide counselling. The principal refused to say whether the school had realised before the tragedy that the girl was pregnant.

A police spokesman said no further arrest had been made and tests were being carried out to find out if the baby was dead before the fall.

The girl, who had been taken to hospital for treatment after the birth, remained in custody.

Mr Lau said the school would not increase its sex education, saying its methods tried to help equip students with proper ethics and values.

Ng Mun-lun, better known as Dr Sex, of the Hong Kong Sex Education Association, said teachers and schools should not be blamed for the failure of sex education.

'Most people in Hong Kong still treat sex as a taboo subject. Teachers tend to touch on topics lightly when teaching about sex because if they really go into depth, parents might complain,' he said.

He added that most teenagers knew about birth control measures, but when the time came they did not have a condom available.