The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

November 19, 2012

Rate climbs in Edgecombe County; Now fifth highest in North Carolina

The Daily Southerner

TARBORO — Even though North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rates are at the lowest levels in state history, falling 12 percent last year, the rate in Edgecombe County rose 2 percent. The data was released last Tuesday by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics.

The 2011 pregnancy rate for 15-19-year-old girls in North Carolina was 43.8 out of every 1,000 girls while it was 74.8 in Edgecombe County. That ranks Edgecombe County’s teen pregnancy rate as the fifth-highest in the state.

Last year, 142 girls in the county became pregnant, and 39 of those were not first-time pregnancies.

“We are still too high, but there’s been improvement,” said Doris Stith, executive director of the Community Enrichment Organization, based in Tarboro. She said her organization works “one-on-one” with teenage mothers to keep them in school and help prevent subsequent unplanned pregnancies.

“Their lives have changed all of a sudden. There’s an identity adjustment,” Stith said. She said the teenage mothers are faced with the realization they are no longer just a high-school student, but they are also a parent, and that is a tough adjustment.

Kay F. Gurganus, executive director of the Pregnancy Care Center in Rocky Mount, has seen a decrease in the percentage of teenagers coming in for services in 2010 compared to 2011. From January until October of this year, Gurganus said the center served 99 girls in the 10-19-year-old age range. The center offers free, confidential services to pregnant women in Edgecombe and Nash counties.

While North Carolina’s decline in teen pregnancies is a success worth celebrating, the state still has the 14th highest teen pregnancy rate in the United States. Statistics show that nearly 70 percent of high-school seniors in North Carolina have engaged in sexual activity and experts warn that if efforts to maintain the downward teen pregnancy trend are not maintained, the rate could easily climb back up.

“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,” said Kay Phillips, CEO of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC).

Those in need of help from the Pregnancy Care Center can visit, stop by the center at 400 Sunset Ave. in Rocky Mount or call 446-2273.