Teen pregnancy rates dropping, but rates for older teens remain - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Teen pregnancy rates dropping, but rates for older teens remain high

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As thousands of college students head to their dorm rooms, a Columbia-based non-profit hopes they'll be making safe decisions once they get settled.

Shannon Flynn is a researcher with the Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Lately, they've been putting emphasis on educating older teens.

"We need more abstinence and we need more teens who are engaging in sexual behaviors to use protection. But we do feel that teens, on the whole, are making more responsible decisions," said Flynn.

That's true, according to the most recent data. From 2001 to 2011, teen pregnancy among 15-17 year olds dropped by 39 percent to its lowest level ever. But the rates of pregnancy among 18-19-year olds fell by just 22 percent. That age group is responsible for more than 70 percent of unplanned pregnancies, and lowering those numbers would help move South Carolina closer to the national average.

"We're following similar national trends, but we're having a hard time moving out of that higher teen birth rate compared to the rest of the country," said Flynn.

Flynn says those older teens are either in college, tech school, or the workforce, making them harder to reach than their younger peers, but they're working on it.

"Eighteen to 19-year-olds tend to be a harder group to reach, but it's important to keep trying," said Flynn.

Flynn says they've been reaching out to colleges to see how they can help, many of which like USC, also have their own safe-sex programs. She says newer, evidence-based education is helping. It emphasizes abstinence, but teaches contraception.

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