Young feeding the young: But statistics show teen motherhood is not a significant problem here. *Overseas MCT photo
Young feeding the young: But statistics show teen motherhood is not a significant problem here. *Overseas MCT photo

This is Teen Pregnancy month. After hearing the Minister and others hold forth on teenage pregnancy and what a huge problem it was and is, I paused, I thought, and, as I am wont to do, I asked “What exactly is going on here?” and I searched for facts.

The facts indicated that those well-dressed, well-spoken people were keeping a myth alive.

The facts? According to the annual reports issued by the Registry General, in 2012, there was only one baby born to a girl under the age of 16. There were 10 babies born to girls between the ages of 16 and 19. That’s 11 babies out of the total 648 babies born in that year.

At less than 0.2% for under sixteen’s, and barely 1.5% for teenagers aged 16-19, that’s hardly a massive problem. Instead, it is a small and manageable problem. Clearly, it is and has been very well managed.

Proof of good management? In 2011 there were 2 babies born to under 16s; in 2010, again 2; in 2009, there were 3; in 2008, 2007, and 2006 there were zero births to girls under sixteen. So in the seven years between 2006 and 2012, there were only eight babies born to girls under the age of 16. That’s eight babies out of the 5,384 total births over the full seven years — that’s barely one a year.

Though still a teenager, legally, an 18 year-old female is a full adult. Properly, only births to 16 and 17 year old girls should be recorded as births to ‘children’. Legally, 18 and 19-year-old girls are adults.

Putting it all together, in 2012, Bermuda had one birth to one under-sixteen, and an absolute maximum of ten births to 16 and 17 year old girls. That’s eleven out of 648 total births recorded for 2012. That’s 1.7 per cent of all births. That means that 98.3% of all births in Bermuda in 2012 were to adult women. In the real world, a 1.7% problem is a small and eminently manageable problem. And a 98.3% success rate is reason for crowing.

Sometimes, though, people prefer to create and hold on to myths. One myth is that of “children having children”. From 2006, the maximum possible number of births to girls aged 17 down to under 16 was the 37 births in 2006. That meant that 95.4% of all the 798 babies born in 2006 were born to adult women. None of those 37 babies were born to girls under 16. Part of that 37 would have been births to 18 and 19 year old adult women; which would make the rate higher than 95.4%.

“Children having children” has long been an automatic response and statement — really a cliché — used by many social commentators. That cliché is wrong. It is based on myths supported by ignorance.

Births to under 16s were a problem in our past. Given today’s low birth rates, it is not a problem now. Times have changed. Success has been achieved. We should acknowledge the success of past Governments’ efforts to reduce and eliminate the real problem of “children having children”.

When a programme — any programme — achieves success levels that range between a high of 98.6% and a low of 95.4%, we should praise and applaud. We should not go on sustaining or, worse, propagating myths. After all, we’re not Greeks with a need to create a mythology. Or are we Bermudians really secret Greeks who have been transmogrified and transplanted?