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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 12:40 GMT
Street drama wins praise
Sarah-Louise's Platt
Sarah-Louise's pregnancy came as a bombshell
Coronation Street has won government praise for its handling of of a storyline about an under-age pregnancy.

In the ITV soap, 13-year-old schoolgirl Sarah-Louise Platt - played by Tina O'Brien - is five months pregnant.

Public health minister Yvette Cooper said the show should be applauded for raising the issue in front of a mass audience.

Granada should be congratulated on having the courage to include a storyline in Coronation Street about teenage pregnancy

Yvette Cooper, government health minister
"We need to make sure that young people themselves are aware of just how easy it is to get pregnant and just how hard it is to be a parent, if we are to get teenage pregnancy rates down," she said.

"That is why I think Granada TV should be congratulated on having the courage to include a storyline in Coronation Street about teenage pregnancy."

Ms Cooper praised the programme as she announced 20 pilot government schemes to help counsel pregnant teenagers in areas of England with some of the highest rates of young mothers.

The 6m SureStart Plus project - launched on Wednesday - aims to put in place 150 teenage pregnancy co-ordinators to provide young mothers-to-be with information and advice on abortion, adoption and keeping their babies.

Strong tradition

Last week's Street revelation from Sarah-Louise shocked her parents, Gail and Martin. The teenager refused to name the father, only telling them he was a boy from school.
Michelle Fowler
EastEnder Michelle Fowler coped with life as a teenage mum
Over the next weeks viewers will see the storyline unfold as Sarah-Louise and her parents come to terms with her pregnancy.

Talking to project co-ordinators, Yvette Cooper highlighted the part other TV soaps have played in raising the same issue over the years.

"Sarah-Louise is not the first pregnant teenager in our soaps. I remember watching the story of pregnant 16-year-old Michelle Fowler on EastEnders," she said.

Michelle's pregnancy was just one of the explosive plots which launched EastEnders in 1985. Like Sarah-Louise, her family was dismayed when she refused to say reveal that who the father was.
Teenage pregnancy in England
Highest rate in Western Europe
Nearly 90,000 U19s pregnant each year
Higher rates in deprived areas
Half those U16 have abortions
High cot death risk to young, single mothers' babies
Michelle refused to have an abortion and in subsequent years viewers followed her life as both a mother and a student.

But Ms Cooper added many real-life teenagers in the same situation do not enjoy the support of their families.

"From Michelle to Sarah-Louise, too little has changed.

"SureStart Plus will prevent pregnant teenagers from falling into the spiral of disadvantage and poverty as we know happens to so many them."

The government has pledged to halve teenage pregnancies in England by 2010.

See also:

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10 Feb 00 | Entertainment
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11 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Corrie ratings are streets ahead
26 Sep 99 | Entertainment
Soaps criticised for divorce rates
16 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Happy Birthday EastEnders
29 Sep 99 | Entertainment
Street set for funeral tears
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