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Teen pregnancy rate stays steady in N.C.

Posted September 22, 2008

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— North Carolina's teen pregnancy rate has remained steady for the past five years after a dramatic 13-year decline to the state's lowest-ever rate in 2003.

In 2007, 19,615 girls between ages 15 and 19 got pregnant, a rate of 63 pregnancies per 1,000 girls, according to newly released statistics from the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics. The numbers includes both married and unmarried teens. 

The rate of repeat pregnancies rose 3.2 percent from the previous year and made up 29.4 percent of all teen pregnancies.

"While it's good news that we didn't seen an increase in teen pregnancies in 2007, we are concerned that the rate has leveled off over the past few years," State Health Director Leah Devlin said.

"Too  many of our teens are getting pregnant. North Carolina has one of the higher teen pregnancy rates in the nation."

The 2007 numbers are virtually unchanged from 2006, when North Carolina had the country's ninth-highest teen pregnancy rate. The state's rate has dropped 32 percent since 1992.

The disparity between white and minority teen pregnancy rates has narrowed, and the rate dropped among most minority populations in the past year.

However, the minority teen pregnancy rate was still 1.6 times higher than that of for white teens in 2007, compared with two times higher in 1992.

Hispanic teens had the highest pregnancy rate at 167.4 per 1,000 girls in 2007. That rate has fallen 3.3 percent since 2006 and nearly 7 percent since 2003.

The rate of African-American teen pregnancy rose slightly last year to 87.1 per 1,000. The number of pregnancies among American Indian teens and other minority groups was too low to calculate reliable rates.

Experts said that the wrong message is being sent by the media attention on high-profile teen moms-to-be, such as Jamie Spears and the daughter of Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

"These statistics indicate that while high-profile first pregnancies such as Jamie Lynn Spears or Bristol Palin make the evening news, it is teen parents that we ought to be focusing on," said Kay Phillips, executive director of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina.

"Recent high-profile teen pregnancies have put a spotlight on this issue," Devlin said. "We must continue to work to reduce the number of pregnancies that occur among young women before they are ready to handle the responsibilities that come with having a child."

Phillips pointed out special problems associated with teen mothers: Only a third graduate from high school, and even by age 30, they are still earning 58 percent of what non-teen mothers do.

"We need to teach our teens to delay pregnancy, and if they don't, encourage them in finishing their education and delaying a second pregnancy until they're financially ready to support a family," Phillips said.

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Sep 23, 2008

    cghsmom, Actually, I think stopping birth control and stopping sex ed is a huge religious issue for at least these two major reasons:

    1- Religion is faith based, while science is fact based. You have folks who have turned off their reasoning skills in one part of their life, so it can be harder to get through ("reason") with hard facts and statistics.

    2-There is at least one prominent religion whose leader in Rome has decreed that birth control is NOT to be used at all...except for the "rhythm method", which fails the human biology test.

  • SaltlifeLady Sep 22, 2008

    danaybanks2,
    the students in Wake Couonty Public Schools get Abstinence only. There is no option for parents to OK to more. It is not a religious school issue. The State has allowed more information to be given but theindividual school systems decide what they want and Wake County has gone with Abstinence only. Parents need to speak up to the school board if they want more to be done in the schools.

  • danaybanks2 Sep 22, 2008

    I don't understand this "abstinance only" policy. I went to Catholic school for 12 years (ele/middle/high school) and I can remember a nun (who was wearing a HABIT at the time) using a banana to teach us how to use condoms! We were told that we could go to planned parenthood, etc. We were told to wait for marriage, but they realized that things happen, so they taught us the basics. So, it can't just be religious schools that are against it. I'm new to NC (3 years) and I don't have any children in school. Has this always been the policy? Is it only public schools? Can students learn it if their parents give permission? I remember that your parents had to sign a consent and some of the children had extra art/music classes if their parents didn't consent. So, it wasn't forced on students. What gives with NC schools?

  • ijstarr Sep 22, 2008

    Abstinance only education does not work. That has been established, but fo rthose kids that do wait until they are married to have sex for the first time they still do not have the knoledge that they need to make correct decisions. Just because you are married that does not mean you want children right away or at all. As a 20 something NCSU stuedent I had to teach my suite mates my freshman year all about condoms and birth control because they had never been taught that information either from parents or schools. I grew up in Wake county and I learned what I know from reading books, watching the discovery channel, tlaking to my doctor, and reading the product informaiton on boxes of contraceptives. most people also do not know what to do if a condom breaks either!!! If a person waits to get married to have sex that is in how they are raised and their own personal belief systems not because WCPSS has told them to wait! prevent an abortion - use a condom!

  • SaltlifeLady Sep 22, 2008

    hereandnow99-
    we have a medication in shot form available..Depoprovera..given once every 3 months. There are also birth control pills available. Both these medications are available free to students under 18 years of age from the health department. The schools just aren't allowed to give the students that information under the abstinence-only policy. They can also get free STD testing and pregnancy testing.

  • rafiki Sep 22, 2008

    If the media is obsessed with Bristol's teenage pregnancy, what message are we passing to teenagers?

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Sep 22, 2008

    Wouldn't it be great if there birth control that was an easy, safe, cheap (free?) and maybe only taken once a year? The stat is that about 50% of pregnancies are UNplanned, but it's probably higher for teens...so, wouldn't it be great if they could just get a shot or something once a year? It would do nothing for STDs, but it would change lives...and as some commenters alluded to here, save public $. :-) We've got to stop people (and groups) from stopping birth control research and development.

  • drsickles Sep 22, 2008

    Abstinence-only education IS NOT WORKING. We need to equip our children with comprehensive education so they can make better choices, and protect themselves and their partners. Clearly these teens aren't saying 'no', and the reality of it is that there are far worse things they can get and spread than a baby.

  • SaltlifeLady Sep 22, 2008

    Wake County schools has an abstinence-only policy while the state has adopted an abstinence-plus policy. However, it is left up to the individual school system to decide what to teach and that is what Wake COunty chose. Its not working. While we need to teach abstinence, we also need to inform on STDs and contraception. None of us want to think of our kids having sex, but the truth is they are doing it, and not just in High School. There are middle schoolers and yes, even some in elementary school, {yes, really} having sex. It is a real issue that needs to be addressed with real information. Until the parents speak up and demand that their kids be given this information in school Wake County will keep preaching Abstinence Only.

  • dickiewms Sep 22, 2008

    hispanic teens have the highest birth rate um that is what the article said, can you read??? It's a problem that all these teens are getting pregnant......something needs to be done asap!!!!!

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