Teen Pregnancies on the Rise in D.C.

By Queen Hudgins
UJW Staff

WASHINGTON – In the next few weeks, Kimerly Murphy is expected to deliver La’Zariah, her first child. She said she’s very excited about becoming a mother even though she’s just a teen in high school.

As a pregnant teen Murphy, 17, is part of an alarming statistic in the District of Columbia.

The overall teenage pregnancy rate in the District increased 4.8 percent from 2007 to 2008 to 61.4 pregnancies per 1,000 women between age 15 to 19, according to the D.C. Department of Health Statistics.

Some 56 percent of reported pregnancies were black women, 27 percent were white, 3 percent were Asian and Pacific Islander, and 16 percent were Hispanic/Latina.

Murphy and her boyfriend had been planning on having a baby later in life.

But, of course, things happen. Like the case of Raena Barnes. Barnes, 16, didn’t intend to get pregnant. Still, in February she gave birth to a daughter, Ra’Maya.

She’s past the mistake now and said she is pleased to be a mother.

Nearly two-thirds of births to women younger than age 18 — and more than half of those among 18 to 19 year olds — are unintended, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Talk with local health and teen pregnancy experts, though, and they’ll indicate otherwise. In a recent Washington Post article by columnist Colbert King, he reported claims by health providers that some girls want to get pregnant.

“Chalk up the desire to have a baby to low self-esteem and a wish to make the boyfriend happy,” King wrote. “Or to the belief that they will be happy if they have a baby. Or to the chance to gain standing among girlfriends who have also had babies.

“Or to the failure to fully understand the negative consequences of having a child during adolescence,” King wrote. “Or to poor parental supervision. Or to all of the above.”

Only Barnes and Murphy really know where they stand on the reason why they became pregnant.

They said they plan to continue school and complete their education. Murphy is a high school senior.

“Completing high school is a must for me because when my daughter gets older she will have a role model to look up to. She will be able to say my mother completed high school,” Murphy said. “I guess I will have to make some sacrifices but I will complete high school.”

Barnes described her parents as “upset and disappointed” after learning of her pregnancy.

“They are really supportive now,” she said.


Founded in 1975, the Washington Association of Black Journalists is an organization of Black journalists, journalism professors, public relations professionals and student journalists in the D.C., metro area. WABJ provides members with ongoing professional education opportunities and advocates for greater diversification of the profession.