Monitoring the missing half: why reporting adolescent births is insufficient

Jennifer L Marino and Susan M Sawyer
Med J Aust 2019; 210 (5): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50047
Published online: 18 March 2019

Lack of national abortion data impedes development of sexual and reproductive health care policies and programs for young Australians

Recent data show a steady decrease in adolescent births to a historic low of 10 births per 1000 15–19‐year‐olds.1 Notwithstanding that some adolescent pregnancies are planned or wanted, these data are surely positive, as pregnant adolescents are vulnerable to numerous adversities and delaying pregnancy is healthier for mothers and children.2 However, birth rates reflect access to comprehensive sexuality education, reliable contraception and safe abortion. Specifically, as lower birth rates may reflect higher abortion rates, a complete national picture is required. More broadly, pregnancy and its outcomes reflect various inequities that continue to affect adolescents and their offspring across their lives. Greater understanding of adolescent pregnancy outcomes, including abortion, would help shape a suite of interventions for vulnerable adolescents, including interventions that facilitate access to quality schooling and alleviate poverty.

  • 1 Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2 University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC
  • 3 Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, VIC


Jennifer Marino is supported by National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence in Adolescent Health grant 1134894 and project grant 1161145. We thank Dr Deborah Bateson (Family Planning Victoria), Ms Sarah Gafforini and Dr Philip Goldstone (Marie Stopes Australia), Dr Cedric Manen (Family Planning Tasmania) and Prof Rachel Skinner (University of Sydney and Children's Hospital Westmead) for enlightening conversations about this topic and comments on the manuscript.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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