Teenage Pregnancy:
An Historical Legislative Analysis
by Victoria Perez

From the writer: Choosing teenage pregnancy as a topic for my legislative history was important to me because it affects many young women every year. This legislative history was an assignment that required a lot of focus and research, and it was interesting to see the lack of support the U.S. has given to decreasing the teenage pregnancy rate. My biggest inspirations are my family: my younger sister Amber, for being so strong, my mom and Titi Erlene for introducing me to writing, my father, for always being there with a hug, and my brother, just for being cool.

From the editor, Gillian Dunn: Before reading this piece, teenage pregnancy seemed more a societal nuisance than a topic of hot political debate. Through this legislative history, it is revealed that it has not only been heavily debated over the years, but continues to plague the government in the quest to find a solution. Clear and concise, the author outlines the steps taken to amend this situation, while demonstrating just how slow the process can be. Overview:

  Since the 1970’s, the issue of teen pregnancy has found its way into the national spotlight. Between 1972 and 1991, the teen pregnancy rate rose steadily; in 1991, 11.5% of 15-19 year old women in the United States became pregnant (See Endnote 1), the nation’s highest rate of teen pregnancy ever. Over the next decade, teen pregnancy rates began declining, with the most current data (1997) revealing that the teen pregnancy rate is now 9.7% of 15-19 year olds becoming pregnant. See Endnote 2. Despite this decrease, the issue is still something to be concerned over. In order to help ameliorate the problem, many pieces of legislation have been proposed, covering a wide array of topics concerning teenage pregnancy and pregnancy prevention.

Major Legislation:

91st Congress

S. 2108 "Family Planning and Population Research Act of 1970"

Introduced: 5/8/69 Final Status: Signed as Public Law 91-572 (12/24/70)

  This Act was the gateway for future teenage pregnancy prevention legislation. The Act amended the Public Health Service Act by adding to it Title X, which made grants available to States to establish family planning services. The services were geared toward low-income individuals in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The services were strictly on a voluntary basis for interested parties. The family planning services could not serve as a prerequisite to any other program or service. In addition, the distributed funds could not be used for abortions. Finally, the Act established the Office of Population Affairs, within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The office was to focus on population research and family planning. See Endnote 3.

97th Congress

H.R. 3982 "Adolescent Family Life Demonstration Projects"

Introduced: 6/19/81 Final Status: Signed as Public Law 97-35 (8/13/81)

  This legislation was one of the first to target teenage pregnancy directly. It amended the Public Heath Service Act to add Title XX, the Adolescent Family Life Demonstration Projects. This allowed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide grants to support services and research pertaining to teenage pregnancy and prevention. This included areas such as pregnancy testing and maternity counseling, adoption counseling and prenatal and pediatric care, among others. However, the legislation prohibited funds to be used for abortion services. See Endnote 4.

99th Congress

H.R. 947 "Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Program Amendments of 1985"

Introduced: 2/6/85 Final Status: Subcommittee on Health and Environment (Committee on Energy and Commerce) hearings held (4/30/85)

  The purpose of this bill was to amend Titles X and XX of the Public Health Service Act. In regard to Title X, the legislation called for grants and contracts for organizations to provide comprehensive services for sexually active teens who desired to prevent an unwanted pregnancy (contraception, information). The bill also aimed to change Title XX to allow public and non-profit organizations receive grants and contracts to provide services to pregnant teens, teen parents, and parents of preschoolers who were under 18 at the time of their child’s birth. The services would be voluntary by people seeking assistance. However, the bill failed to receive enough support and died in committee. See Endnote 5.

S. 19 "Amend Title IV of the Social Security Act"

Introduced: 1/3/85 Final Status: Referred to the Committee on Finance (1/3/85)

  Proposed to amend Title IV of the Social Security Act to gives States grants to prevent teen parents’ long term dependency on AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), and to allow pregnant teens and teenage mothers to remain in school. In addition the bill provided educational and vocational counseling and services to pregnant teens and teen mothers. The bill failed to gain enough support and died in committee. See Endnote6.

100th Congress

S. 737 "School Based Adolescent Health Act of 1987"

Introduced: 3/12/87 Final Status: Referred to Committee on Labor and Human Resources (3/12/87)

  The School Based Adolescent Health Act of 1987 proposed to amend the Public Health Service Act by adding a new title (Title XXI), which would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make available grants to establish school based facilities to provide health education, pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) testing, prenatal care, and family planning services. The bill required the facilities to be active year-round, and must be within or adjacent to schools in the project area (or a location better suited for the teens). The bill could not garner enough support and failed in committee. See Endnote 7.

102nd Congress

H.R. 1490 "Family Unity and Parental Notification Act"

Introduced: 3/19/91 Final Status: Referred to House Committee on Energy and Commerce (3/19/91)

  The legislation aimed to amend the Public Health Service Act by prohibiting financial assistance to any agency, under Titles XVIII and XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid and Medicare, respectively) and specified provisions of the Public Health Service Act, unless that agency agreed to notify the parents of an unemancipated minor 48 hours before performing an abortion on the minor. The bill did not receive enough support and died in committee. See Endnote 8.

104th Congress

S. 8 "Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Parental Responsibility Act"

Introduced: 1/4/95 Final Status: Referred to Finance Committee (1/4/95)

  This Act required teenage mothers to live in adult-supervised settings in order to be eligible for AFDC benefits. In addition, to receive benefits the mothers must have completed high school, or be in the process of completing high school. The Act also allowed States to receive grants to operate programs to reduce teen pregnancy; the Federal Government would match up to 75% of the State’s contribution. The final part of the Act required the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Education and the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service to establish the National Clearinghouse on Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs. This center would serve as a national information and data center, as well as a source of development for teen pregnancy prevention programs. The Act, however, could not gain enough support to pass out of committee. See Endnote 9.

H.R. 3734 "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996"

Introduced: 6/27/96 Final Status: Signed as Public Law 104-193 (8/22/96)

  One of the latest developments in Congress regarding teen pregnancy, Section 408 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act prohibited TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) aid to teen parents who do not complete high school, as well as no TANF aid for teen parents not living in an adult-supervised setting. In addition, Section 905 stated the Secretary of Health and Human Services must establish a strategy for preventing out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancies, and must assure that at least 25% of United States communities have a teen pregnancy prevention program in place. Finally, Section 912 amended Title V of the Social Security Act (Maternal and Child Health Services) to provide $50,000,000 between 1996-2002, for States to teach abstinence in public schools, including teaching that abstinence is the only way to avoid unintended pregnancy and disease. See Endnote 10.

107th Congress

H.R. 3469 "Family Life Education Act"

Introduced: 12/12/01 Final Status: Referred to House Committee on Energy and Commerce (12/12/01)

  This legislation attempted to amend the abstinence education clause in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. It mandated that grants be given to States to teach family life education, stressing abstinence, while also providing contraceptive information. It also expressed the sense of Congress that the States should provide funds matching that of the Federal government. Finally, it required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide for a national evaluation of programs for effectiveness in changing adolescent behavior. The bill failed to achieve enough support and failed in committee. See Endnote 11.

Endnotes:

1) United States. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Asst. Sec. For Planning and Evaluation. Trends in the Well Being of America’s Children and Youth. 1997 ed. 8 Feb. 2002 <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/97trends/sd45.html>.

2) The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Facts and Stats. "U.S. Pregnancy Rates for Teens, 15-19." 8 Feb. 2002 <http://www.teenpregnancy.org/prates.htm>.

3) "Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970" (PL 91-572. 24 Dec. 1970), 84 United States Statutes at Large, pp. 1504-1508.

4) U.S. House of Representatives. 97th Congress. 1st Session (1981). "H.R. 3982 Adolescent Family Life Demonstration Projects." Washington: Government Printing Office, 2001 (Thomas Bill Summary H.R.3982).

5) U.S. House of Representatives. 99th Congress. 1st Session (1985). "H.R. 947 Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Program." Amendments of 1985. Washington, Government Printing Office, 2001 (Thomas Bill Summary H.R. 947).

6) U.S. Senate. 99th Congress. 1st Session (1985). "S. 19 Amend Title IV of the Social Security Act." Washington. Government Printing Office, 2001 (Thomas Bill Summary S.19).

7) U.S. Senate. 100th Congress. 1st Session (1987). "S. 737 School Based Adolescent Health Act of 1987."Washington, Government Printing Office,
2001 (Thomas Bill Summary S.737).

8) U.S. House of Representative. 102nd Congress. 1st Session (1991). "H.R. 1490, Family Unity and Parental Notification Act." (Full Text of Bills: Congressional Universe Online Service. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service).

9) U.S. Senate. 104th Congress. 1st Session (1995). "S. 8, Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Parental ResponsibilityAct." (Full Text of Bills:
Congressional Universe Online Service. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service).

10) U.S. House. 104th Congress. 2nd Session (1996). "H.R. 3734, Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996." (Full
Text of Bills: Congressional Universe Online Service. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service).

11) U.S. House of Representatives. 107th Congress. 1st Session (2001). "H.R. 3469, Family Life Education Act." (Full Text of Bills: Congressional
Universe Online Service. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service).


Home Preface Table of Contents Contributors Editors Teacher's Resources

Copyright © 2002 Intertext