The S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy sponsored a “Community Talk” on Thursday, May 11, in conjunction with the Coalition for Family Enrichment in Marlboro County.
The purpose of the event, held at the Bennettsville Community Center that evening, was to share statistics about teen pregnancy and the impact it can have on the community.
It was also to recognize May as Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. The chairman of Marlboro County Council and the mayors of Bennettsville, Blenheim and Clio all presented proclamations signed in recognition of this.
Joan Johnakin, chairman of the Coalition for Family Enrichment, said teen pregnancy is a crisis here, with Marlboro County continually having the highest rate in South Carolina.
“We’ve been at the top for way too long,” she said. “Teen pregnancy is a symptom of a greater problem.”
According to Carol Singletary, senior advisor for outreach with the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, teen pregnancy leads to such negative outcomes as low birthweight babies, mothers not finishing high school, and young families living in poverty.
The solution starts with open discussion, she said: “You can’t do anything about teen pregnancy until you start talking about it.”
The S.C. Campaign has been making some headway; since its peak in 1991, the state’s teen birth rate has dropped by 64 percent, to a current rate of 26.1 per 1,000.
But there is still work to do, Singletary said. In 2015, 4,020 girls ages 15-19 gave birth in South Carolina, and a teen gives birth every 131 minutes.
Turning her attention to Marlboro County specifically, she said the county once again has the highest teen birth rate in the state: 75.1 per 1,000. Allendale County was second highest and Marion County, third.
In addition, Marlboro was one of 13 S.C. counties to see an increase in the teen birth rate in 2015. On a more positive note, the rate is still 20 percent lower than it was at its peak in 1991.
Additional Marlboro County statistics, based on 2015 information from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, include:
-There were 58 births to teens ages 15-19
-The county averages eight teen births per month
-One in 10 teen births are to girls who have previously given birth. This is a concern because these girls are “destined for poverty,” Singletary said.