From SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
COLUMBIA, SC - For the third year in a row, teen birth rates in South Carolina have declined and are now at an all-time low. Information released by the Department of Health and Environmental Control shows a teen birth rate of 42.6 per 1,000 teens age 15-19, correlating to a 13 percent decline from 2009-2010.
South Carolina has seen a 26 percent decline in the teen birth rate over the last decade. In addition Horry County has reached its lowest level of teen births in ten years.
Forrest Alton, Chief Executive Officer of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, says these declines should be celebrated and recognized as a major accomplishment by teens and those who care about them.
"In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control deemed teen pregnancy a winnable battle, and I am happy to report that we are currently winning that battle in South Carolina," said Alton. "We have a long road ahead and much work remains, but we should absolutely take a moment to celebrate the amazing progress that young people have made over the last decade."
Experts suggest a variety of reasons for these improvements, but three main ideas seem to emerge as the most likely.
First, teens should be applauded for making responsible decisions. Teens today are choosing abstinence at a higher frequency, and if they do have sex, are using contraceptives more consistently than in the 1990s.
Second, teen pregnancy is now seen as a critical issue. In a recent statewide survey of South Carolina adults 95 percent agreed that teen pregnancy is an important issue, and nearly 85 percent support school-based sexuality education.
Third, there is a culture of openness that exists in today's society that was not present in the past. Teen pregnancy is being discussed much more frequently in the media and in turn is being discussed in young people's homes. In fact, over 75 percent of South Carolina high school students report that their parents have talked to them about expectations around sexual behaviors.
Alton remains hopeful that positive progress will continue in South Carolina, but recognizes there is still room to increase and enhance existing efforts.
"If we can do three things – increase the number of high quality programs and services that are available for all youth, improve the delivery of age-appropriate, research proven sex education in public schools, and enhance the conversations about love, sex and relationships parents are having with their children – we will undoubtedly continue to see progress," stated Alton.
Despite recent declines, too high rates of teen pregnancy in South Carolina are directly associated with indicators of academic achievement, child health and economic stability. Given the high stakes, Alton suggests that everyone has a role to play in prevention.
"The time is now for each of us to step up and make an investment in our state's most valuable resource – young people," he adds.