Teen birth rate drops in South Carolina

The South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy said numbers provided by the state health department show the teen birth rate in South Carolina dropped 10 percent between 2013 and 2014.

The teen birth rate in South Carolina dropped 10 percent between 2013 and 2014, a new analysis by the Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy shows.

In 2014, the most recent year for which numbers are available, the teen birth rate for 15- to 19-year-olds decreased to an average of 28.5 births per 1,000 females.

Nearly 4,300 teenagers gave birth in South Carolina last year. That’s significantly lower than the number of teenagers who gave birth in years past. In 2008, for example, more than 8,300 South Carolina teens gave birth.

“It is fair to say we have done a great job in our state educating young people about the importance of delaying pregnancy,” said Forrest Alton, CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “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. This is the magic formula required to reduce teen pregnancy, less sex and more contraception.”

While the numbers are down, South Carolina’s teen birth rate is still much higher than the teen birth rate in other states.

According to data complied last year by America’s Health Rankings, New Hampshire’s teen birth rate — an average of 13.8 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 years — is the lowest in the country. Only 11 states had teen birth rates higher than South Carolina’s rate.

The Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy acknowledged in a press release on Tuesday that it needs to do a better job targeting 18- and 19-year-olds, who accounted for 72 percent of all teen births last year.

“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,” Alton said. “To think we have this problem solved is short-sighted.”

Meanwhile, the number of women having babies over 40 is higher than ever in South Carolina.

In 2014, 1,264 women over 40 years old, including 80 over 45 years old, gave birth in South Carolina, compared with fewer than 500 in 1990.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.