Teenager, 13, among Bay girls under 16 who have given birth

NZ Herald 27 September 2014
A Tauranga 13-year-old who had a baby this year is the youngest person to have given birth in the Bay of Plenty in the past seven years – an event described as a tragedy by a lobby group leader.

The teenager is among 25 girls under 16 who have given birth at Tauranga Hospital since 2008.

Figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board under the Official Information Act show the 13-year-old was the youngest person to have a baby at one of the region’s hospitals since 2008.

Bay of Plenty child protection teams co-ordinator Detective Sergeant Lew Warner said police had investigated a case involving a pregnant 13-year-old this year but would not reveal any details of the situation or the investigation’s outcome.

“We’ve dealt with issues in the past to try to ascertain who the (baby’s) father is because it’s technically statutory rape,” he said. “We take it extremely seriously.”

Such cases were a rarity, Mr Warner added.

The father would be charged if police could identify him. The maximum penalty for statutory rape is 20 years in prison.

Child, Youth and Family were notified of underage pregnancies, he said.

But CYF regional director Sue Critchley would not confirm whether the organisation had investigated or taken any action in the case of the 13-year-old Tauranga girl, citing privacy concerns.

“Child, Youth and Family’s focus would be on the safety and wellbeing of the young mum and her baby,” she said.

“When cases like this are referred to Child, Youth and Family we assess if the young mum has good family support and whether there are any care and protection concerns for her or her child.

“If those supports are in place and both are safe and well there would be no need for Child, Youth and Family to be involved.”

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said any case of a 13-year-old becoming pregnant was a tragedy.

“Any pregnancy for a young teen is very difficult both physically and emotionally.

“Official statistics show that there were approximately 80 on average abortions for 11-14-year-olds each year, so a 13-year-old giving birth is a tragic reminder that we need to do more to prevent young people becoming sexually active.”

Throughout the Bay of Plenty 51 girls under 16 years old gave birth between the start of 2008 and August 19 this year but the figures have dropped steadily from 12 in 2008 to five last year and three so far this year.

Mr McCoskrie said he was pleased the number of teen mothers was dropping.

“It does raise a number of issues including the fact that most people would be horrified that young teenagers are sexually active, have got pregnant, and the figures also wouldn’t include girls who got pregnant but were sneaked off for an abortion without their parents knowing – as is allowed under the law,” he said.

“We believe the downward trend, which is similar to the drop in abortions, is because of better information around pregnancy, fetal development and the consequences of sexual activity, which young people are now able to access via the internet.”

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