Kentucky’s rate of teenagers having children is fourth in nation

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chart, adapted by Kentucky Health News

By John McGary, WEKU

Kentucky has the fourth-highest teenage birth rate in the U.S., according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which show Kentucky’s teen birthrate to be 38 percent higher than the U.S. average.

At the same time, teen-birth rates are declining in Kentucky and the nation. The state’s rate was 22.8 per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in 2019-21, down from 31.7 in 2014-16. This rate has decreased steadily since 2014-16 when that rate was 31.7 teen births per 1,000 females 15-19.
In 2020, Christian County had Kentucky’s highest rate of birth to teens, 55 per 1,000 females aged 15-19. County-by-county teen birth rates since 2003 are available at
Tamarra Wieder, state director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates, said what children don’t learn in school is one reason Kentucky ranks high in teen births: “We’re not having conversations around comprehensive sex education, and empowering our youth to know that they can say no to sex, that they can empower them to talk to their providers around birth control.”

Wieder said another reason for the high teen birthrate is a lack of proper medical care in much of the state. She said 73 of the     120 counties do not have practicing obstetrician-gynecologists, “so when you’re already not having the these conversations in the classroom, and then you don’t have access to providers, this is a huge problem for the commonwealth.”

Wieder said surveys show 83 percent of Kentuckians support comprehensive sex education supported by science and legitimate groups like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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