Columbus: Teen pregnancy rates decrease. abortion rates remain high

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Teen pregnancy rates are decreasing nationwide, and this positive trend has been going on in Muscogee County for the past five years as well.

According to a recent study from the Guttmacher Institute, a drop in teen pregnancies among 15 to 19 year olds is seen across all ethnic and racial groups. It dropped by 51 percent from 1990 to 2010 across the country.

Teen pregnancy rates among 15 to 17 year olds also fell in Muscogee County. According to the Right from the Start's data, Columbus's teen pregnancy rate stood at 47.9 percent in 2009 while the State of Georgia's pregnancy rate for 15-17 year olds stood at 30.8 percent. By 2012, the teen pregnancy rate in Columbus had dropped to 32.1 percent while Georgia's rate fell to 21.3 percent.

Laura Byard, the director of the Right from the Start program with the Pastoral Institute, explained education helped cause this positive change.

"The Right from the Start program teaches children to work towards a goal," Byard said. "We help them identify what goals they want to achieve. Children with goals do significantly better in achieving higher education and avoiding crisis pregnancies."

Right from the Start offers classes on abstinence and safe relationships to 9th grade students. The program kicked off back in 2009 and it received funding to start teaching 6th graders in September 2014 as well.

"Communities with more married couples are more financially stable, there is less crime, and property values," Byard said. "There is lot of benefit for the community for couples to become married and stayed married."

Sound Choices Clinic also said the number of teen clients they see has decreased over the recent years as well. However, the percentage of positive pregnancy tests still remains high in Muscogee County.

"We saw a big decrease in number of teen clients we saw from 2012 to 2013," Melissa Howard with Sound Choices Clinic said. "We saw 398 clients in 2012 and we helped 265 teen clients in 2013."

Howard said many teenagers visit the clinic for free pregnancy tests after holidays and summer vacations.

"I did notice that this time last year, we saw about 176 teenagers," Howard said. "But this time in 2014, we already saw 240 teen clients. I don't know why, but we have seen more clients this month this year than we did last year."

According to a new study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, more teenagers are giving birth in the South while 15-19 year olds in the Northeast have the lowest teen pregnancy rates. Howard said she is not surprised by this new report.

"I think it's because of the culture that we have in the South," Howard said. "We are aware that the statistics for teen pregnancy is higher in the South. We also know that culture of the Northern, Eastern and Western states is different. It'd be interesting to see and look into why the teen pregnancy statistics are higher in the South compared to other parts of our country."

Sound Choices clinic offers pregnancy tests, abstinence courses, birthing classes and abortion recovery programs at no cost; these programs are all free.

Visit Sound Choices Clinic's website at for more information.

Right from the Start offers classes on avoiding pregnancies outside of wedlock, reducing divorce rates, and marriage classes for all couples.

Visit Right from the Start's website at  for more information.

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