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English teen pregnancy rates back up

TEENAGE pregnancy rates in England and Wales have risen for the first time in five years, threatening a government target to halve levels by 2010, according to official figures released yesterday.

Britain has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe. Underage birth rates have fallen in the past decade but this is partly due to an increased use of abortion.

The issue was highlighted earlier this month by the case of Alfie Patten, from Eastbourne, who became a father at the age of just 13. His girlfriend was 15.

Provisional figures for 2007 showed there were 41.9 conceptions for every 1,000 under-18 girls, up from 40.9 the year previously and the first rise since 2002.

Half of those pregnancies were terminated, a higher proportion than in 2006, meaning there was no rise in the number of live births.

The government said the figures showed young people were not getting effective contraception and were indulging in risky sexual behavior.

In response it announced it would spend an extra 20.5 million pounds (US$29.4 million) to raise young people's awareness of unprotected sex.

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said the figures were disappointing but that the long-term trend was still downward.

She said under-18 conceptions were down nearly 11 percent and teenage births were down 23 percent since the Labour government's strategy began in 1998.


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