SC teen pregnancy rate: nation's 11th highest

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina's teen pregnancy rate has been nearly cut in half in the last 20 years. But now, it's still the 11th highest teen birth rate in the country.

Newly released data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows the national teen pregnancy rate is 26.6 percent, which means more than 26 pregnancies out of each 100 are to teenage moms. South Carolina's rating is 36.6 per thousand pregnancies.

Dillon County actually has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state. Marlboro County has the third highest.

The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy says still, the progress in recent years has been incredible. Teen pregnancy in SC is the lowest it's been in recorded history… and has dropped in every county in the state. But with more than 36 girls out of every thousand pregnancies being teenage girls, there's still a lot more work to be done.

Here's why:

  • Only 38 percent of teen mothers finish high school.
  • And they're more likely to live in poverty and rely on public aid.
  • About a quarter of teen mothers in 2011 already had a child.

More than half of high school students say they have had sex. But the decline shows those teens are being smarter about birth control.

"As a society, we're starting to become a little more comfortable discussing these topics," says Forrest Alton, CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. I'm not sure that we're completely comfortable yet, but shows like 16 and pregnant and Teen Mom are forcing the issue."

Alton says schools and communities are doing a better job at taking on the issue. And the world young people are living in now is vastly different than even 10 years ago.

"I think moving forward we're going to have to do a better job figuring out how to integrate technology into prevention efforts. And realize that as caring adults the stakes have been raised for us. And it's important that we are the ones who are stepping up to the plate."

Alton says the decline of teen pregnancy in recent years is encouraging. And new data his organization recently received shows the positive trend is continuing.

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