DURHAM — North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate fell 12 percent last year – the single largest drop in state history – according to data released Tuesday by the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics.
In 2011, less than 5 percent of females 15 to 19 in the state got pregnant.
“Cultural shifts have made it easier for our young people to avoid pregnancy,” said Kay Phillips, CEO of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina. “However, it’s important to realize that those cultural shifts would not have happened without policies that promote more effective education and access to health care.”
North Carolina has also made efforts to place prevention resources in the most at-risk counties.
“Historically, more than 10 percent of girls in some counties get pregnant each year,” Phillips said. “By targeting the most deeply affected communities with effective programs, we’re increasing our return on investment.”
The General Assembly allocated $3.15 million in federal funds toward the state’s teen pregnancy prevention initiatives during the 2012 session, according to the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign.
In the face of potential cuts to such programs, Phillips is concerned about whether these rates will endure.
“We run the risk of backsliding if we take away the tools that helped us get so far, and that would have tough consequences for our economy, our schools and our quality of life,” Phillips said.
The reduction in pregnancy rates crosses racial and ethnic backgrounds with similar reductions among white, black and Hispanic teens.
As a result of fewer pregnancies, the abortion rate dropped by 21 percent, and the birth rate dropped by 9 percent, according to the report.
The teen pregnancy rate is 58 percent lower than it was at its peak in 1990.