It’s an uncertain time for teenagers in North Carolina to be navigating sexual and reproductive health.
After the overturn of Roe v. Wade last year, the right to abortion is at risk – the state legislature just passed a law that would restrict abortion access by limiting in-clinic abortions after 12 weeks and medication abortions after 10 weeks. (Abortion will remain legal for a few more months for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy in North Carolina, which has turned the state into a top destination for people seeking abortions from states where the procedure is banned or heavily restricted).
In addition, state legislation regarding sex education has not been updated since 2009, and the pandemic has forced the shutdown of long-standing state sexual and reproductive health nonprofits like Shift N.C.
North Carolina’s teen birth rate ranks 32nd in the nation, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2020, state data show that 7,749 teenagers aged 15-19 in North Carolina had a reported pregnancy.
Kristen Carroll, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Service’s (NCDHHS) reproductive health branch head, said a lot of North Carolina’s teen pregnancy work started in the 1980s.
North Carolina’s teen birth rate started to decline in the 1990s and fell 62% from 1996 to 2015, following a national trend.
The NCDHHS is able to fund resources toward preventing adolescent pregnancy and supporting teens who are pregnant through Teen Pregnancy and Prevention Initiatives (TPPI). TPPI provides application-based funding to organizations and schools across North Carolina, like local health departments, teen parenting programs in high schools, and nonprofits that provide additional support.
TPPI also funds a Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) to educate teens on abstinence, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and healthy relationships. This is in line with North Carolina’s 2009 Healthy Youth Act that updated sex education to be more comprehensive, but mandates abstinence and monogamous, heterosexual relationships as the standard for teens.
North Carolina ranks among the highest rates in the country for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Teens aged 15-19 made up 25.3% of total newly diagnosed chlamydia cases and 16.1% of newly diagnosed gonorrhea cases in 2021, according to NCDHHS reports.
We’ve compiled a map of resources for teenagers in North Carolina navigating sexual and reproductive health in 2023. These resources include Planned Parenthoods, LGBTQ+ centers, local health departments and school systems, and community nonprofits that provide sex education materials, support f0r pregnant and parenting teens, sexual health screenings, and more.
The resources on this list were referred to us by people in the community doing the work, or are funded by TPPI. If you have another resource to share, let us know and we will add it to the map.
This is the first in a series of stories about reproductive/sexual health resources for teenagers.