2018-02-09 / Local News

Teenage birth rates decline markedly in past two decades

By SCOTT POWELL
Ledger Staff Writer

More than two decades of prevention efforts have led to a significant decline in teenage birth rates and unplanned pregnancies in South Carolina.

Since peaking in 1991, there has been a 67 percent decline statewide in teenage birth rates.

Cherokee County Pregnancy Center data shows pregnancies for 14- to 19-year-old girls dropped from 50 in 2013 to 14 in 2017.

Taxpayers saved $85 million in medical and economic support provided to South Carolina teenage mothers in 2015. The analysis was done by Power to Decide, the new name for the national campaign to prevent teenage pregnancy.

Power to Decide based the $85 million savings figure on taxpayer costs for teen mothers enrolled in Medicaid, the Women Infant and Children (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) programs.

“South Carolina’s youth-serving providers and other dedicated stakeholders should be proud of their ongoing investment and focus on effective programs throughout the state,” said Beth De Santis, CEO for South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Cherokee County and other school districts statewide provide abstinence-based education to prevent teen pregnancy as part of health education curriculum in high schools and middle schools.

“I believe that when we teach young women and men the value of relationships, and not, ‘sex’ only, we become a healthier society,” Cherokee Pregnancy Center Director Donna Proctor said. “We have witnessed many youth who have come through our doors who are hurting emotionally due to premarital sex. Sex is not just a physical act only. We cannot separate our emotional feelings no matter how bad we want to; we were not created that way. There is only one 100 percent birth control, and that is not to have sex.”

There were 3,696 teenage births in 2016, according to data released by the state Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. That compares to more than 9,700 teenagers giving birth in South Carolina in 1990.

The drop in South Carolina teenage birth rates is most pronounced among black teenagers ages 15 to 17. Their birth rate has plummeted by 82 percent since 1991.

As the teen birth rate continues to decline, sexually transmitted diseases (STD) rates remain an area of concern. In 2015, South Carolina ranked in the top 10 nationally for rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and diagnosed HIV for all ages.

“With 3,696 births to teens in 2016 and a continual increase in STD and HIV rates, we must find solutions when it comes to reaching youth where they need it the most,” De Santis said.

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