NEXT MONTH is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. Not that the island is experiencing a surge in teen pregnancy statistics ÷ the numbers are actually going down, according to teen services officials.

But the implications of teenage pregnancy are often too serious to allow complacency to set in.

ãTeen pregnancy is a symptom of a problem,ä says Michelle Johnson, director of Teen Services.

ãThatâs how I look at it.ä Her agency is organizing a series of activities in May to raise awareness of the issues.

Middle schools and high schools will be involved in a contest with the theme ÎWhy Teen Pregnancy is Not For Me.â

And, on May 23, the public is asked to help mark the Month by wearing green for the day.

ãItâs on a steady pace,ä she said, when asked what the numbers reveal.

ãIn 1996, it was really, really high.ä The agency saw 68 pregnant teenagers that year, of whom 31 had their pregnancies terminated.

In 1997, the agency saw 50 teenage pregnancies, and 25 terminations.

And in 1998 the numbers were 51 and 23 respectively.

ãNow it has come down. But the circumstances have changed so it doesnât mean the situations are any better.ä

In the past, the main issues associated with teen pregnancies were to do with continuing education.

More complicated

Now things are more complicated, with drug-addicted parents and homelessness, she explained.

ãThe campaign is for Bermuda to advocate and support programmes to decrease teen pregnancy and to decrease the problems associated with it.ä

Teen Services takes an objective stance when faced with a pregnant client.

The law requires young people who find themselves pregnant to get counselling ÷ first at Teen Services and then by a psychiatrist.

ãWe try to be objective and provide the services,ä said Ms. Johnson when asked how teens came to a decision about termination.

ãJust because they terminate doesnât mean that they wonât become pregnant again.ä

But the key, of course, is prevention.

ãWe try to encourage abstinence first and foremost,ä continued Ms. Johnson.

And if that cannot be achieved, consistent use of condoms.

ãI recommend that one decides to become a parent when they are self sufficient and can care for themselves and their baby ÷ emotionally, financially and socially.

ãI would hope they would want a two-parent family, because single parenthood is hard.

ãSome people have made that choice and done very well.

ãBut not everyone is so lucky.ä