Linda Gilbert-Hamilton is reminded constantly of the price of teen-aged pregnancies.
In her work as a social service consultant, she has met scores of single mothers who gave birth in their teens, many of whom bore handicapped children.
But her most vivid reminder is her oldest child, born when she was 17.
"My body was not prepared to have a baby, so my child continues today to strive to have some semblance of a life," Gilbert-Hamilton, 35, told members of the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Panel on Teen-age Pregnancy Prevention during a hearing yesterday.
Addressing the panel of doctors, sociologists and city administrators at Fletcher Johnson Community School in Southeast Washington, Gilbert-Hamilton said other long-term consequences of many teen-age pregnancies include juvenile crime and "the destruction" of normal family structure.
"When you go into the tenements . . . you see black mothers there with handicapped children. When you talk to those women, you will find out that they were teen-aged mothers," Gilbert-Hamilton said.
"When you go down to the court . . . the boys who are being locked up for stealing and different types of things" were born to teen-agers, she said.
The hearing, which was attended by about 300 students and teachers, was part of the panel's on-going effort to talk to students, parents, teachers and others about the "crisis" of teen-age pregnancy, said panel chairwoman Joyce Ladner. Mayor Marion Barry appointed the panel last May to investigate the causes and effects of pregnancies among teen-agers in D.C., where one of every five children is born to a teen-ager, she said.
Two teen-aged mothers, two males and several other students addressed the panel, many stating that youths are "old enough to know about sex" and need more sex education classes and greater parental guidance.
Ladner said that 1,792 city teen-agers had babies last year and in most cases, the fathers don't help raise their offspring. No teen-age fathers have spoken at a panel hearing yet.
Andre Watson, a panel member and associate education director at Planned Parenthood, said, "To just talk to the young ladies is to hear one side of it. It takes two to create a pregnancy and it takes two to prevent one. And until we get guys to participate we're missing something.