Start Early Stay Late: Teens in South Carolina are Delaying Pregnancy, Just Not Long Enough
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Columbia, S.C. — South Carolina’s teen birth rate has declined 61 percent since peaking in 1991, continuing decades of success for communities across the state. According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, this decline includes a 10 percent decrease between 2013 and 2014, landing the teen birth rate for 15-19 year olds at 28.5 per 1,000 females. Declines over the last two decades have been most substantial among African American, school-aged youth ages 15-17 whose teen birth rate has decreased by 77 percent since 1991.
“It is fair to say we have done a great job in our state educating young people about the importance of delaying pregnancy,” said Forrest Alton, CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (SC Campaign). “There’s been a great deal of energy and focus in South Carolina around an abstinence message, which of course is the first and best choice for all teens. We are also getting better at providing age-appropriate contraception for those youth who are having sex. This is the magic formula required to reduce teen pregnancy, less sex and more contraception."
Efforts have been particularly successful among young teens - those 17 and younger. But, it should be noted that much work remains among 18-19 year olds who make up 72% of all teen births in the state. Alton credits those working with youth in communities for starting early and messaging to younger teens in an age-appropriate way but says parents, professionals, and community members must also stay late—by continuing to provide information and services to older teens. These comprehensive services should include access to healthcare and contraception.
While all races have experienced a 10% decline in the teen birth rate since 2013, other disparities still exist. Moving forward, the SC Campaign will begin to shift energy and attention to geographic areas with high teen pregnancy rates and populations of young people who remain at elevated risk of becoming teen parents. This will include 18-19 year olds; youth in state systems such as juvenile justice and foster care; teens who are already parents; and, counties in the state who have a higher than average volume of teen births such as Aiken, Anderson, Orangeburg, Darlington, Sumter, Florence, Spartanburg, Horry and Greenwood.
As the state celebrates another year of decline, officials at the SC Campaign continue to encourage communities to avoid becoming complacent as a new crop of teenagers surface each year. Alton says, “We are beyond excited to see teen birth rates continuing to decline, but we also understand the complexity of this issue and know we have a lot of work left to do. There were nearly 4,300 births to teenage mothers last year. To think we have this problem solved is short sighted. Now is not the time to cut back prevention efforts. Instead, we need to refocus our efforts and target our resources to maximize impact.”
Join Forrest Alton (@ForrestLAlton) and the SC Campaign (@SCCampaign) for a live Twitter chat on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. to learn more about the data and what it means for teen pregnancy prevention programming. The chat will also be broadcast live on Periscope (@SCCampaign).