South Carolina’s teen birth rate has declined 61 percent since 1991, according to the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control officials.
The decline includes a 10 percent decrease between 2013 and 2014, officials said, landing the birth rate for 15 to 19 year olds at 28.5 percent per 1,000 females. Declines have been most substantial over the last two decades among African American, school-aged youths between 15 to 17 whose teen birth rates have dropped 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,” Forrest Alton, chief executive officer of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said. “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.”
One demographic, however, still requires much work before there is a noticeable decline in pregnancy rates.
Alton said 18- and 19-year-old teens make up 72 percent of all teen births in the state. Alton said that the success in reducing teen pregnancies at an early age needs to be carried on into the older demographics by continuing to provide information and services to them.
Moving forward, Alton said the campaign will continue to focus on this age demographic as well as target at-risk teens who are in state or foster care, teens who are already pregnant and counties in the state which have a higher volume of teen pregnancies such as Aiken, Anderson, Orangeburg, Darlington, Sumter, Florence, Spartanburg, Horry and Greenwood counties.
“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,” Alton said. “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.”