Originally created 08/10/00

Teen birth rates drop

The good news is that the teen-age birth rate has dropped to its lowest point in 60 years. That's since World War II, so the nation ought to be heartened with that trend.

But before we get too complacent, let's remember that there was a significant upward spike in teen pregnancies just 10 years ago - they went up 24 percent between 1986 and 1991 - and rates could rise once again, particularly if America becomes complacent.

There is still work to be done to bring teen birth rates down. Consider:

The United States has the highest teen pregnancy and birth rates in the industrialized world.

Forty percent of teen-age girls become pregnant before they reach their 20s. That's close to one million girls a year, and nearly 80 percent of those pregnancies are to unwed teens and, according to the Centers for Disease Control, are unintended.

The annual cost to taxpayers for these pregnancies runs to about $7 billion.

Georgia and South Carolina do not have numbers to brag about, both ranking among the 15 states with the highest teen birth rates, even though between 1991 and 1998, Georgia's teen birth rate dropped about 14 percent and South Carolina's 17 percent.

Despite some encouraging statistics, adults need to do more to get the message through to kids that avoiding pregnancy should be one of their top priorities.

Let's not drop our guard on this issue. We have a long way to go.

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