Laotians Show Highest Teen Pregnancy Rates Among California Minorities
According to a University of California-San Francisco study to be released in July, Laotian girls had the highest teenage pregnancy rate (18.94%) among minorities in California between 1989 and 1998, a rate "well above" the state average of 11.83%, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Close behind Laotians were "other" Southeast Asians, including Malaysians and Indonesians, with 18.39%. In comparison, other Asian groups, including Chinese, Indians and Koreans, have teen pregnancy rates at around 1%. The Chronicle reports that several factors account for the high teen pregnancy rate among Southeast Asians. Gina Acebo, co-director of Asians & Pacific Islanders for Reproductive Health in Oakland, said that there is little pregnancy prevention information targeted toward these ethnicities. "I think there is general information out on teen pregnancy, but whether those organizations are providing information for these girls remains to be seen." Manith Thaing, a youth counselor and documentary filmmaker from Union City, said that many Southeast Asian parents are "often reticent about educating their children on teenage pregnancy and lack the necessary information." Thaing added that these parents are often "embarrassed" about teen pregnancies, saying, "They think it's a disgrace." Southeast Asian culture may also plays a role in the high pregnancy rates, as many girls in Laos get married and have children by their mid-teen years. Tracy Weitz, project director with the University of California-San Francisco Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy and director of the study, indicated that Southeast Asians have not been identified as a risk group, saying, "People think this is a problem for the African-American or Hispanic community, and the Asian community has been omitted" (Kim, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/7).