It’s an uncertain time for North Carolina teens to navigate sexual and reproductive health.
After the overturn of Roe v. Wade last year, the right to abortion is at stake — the state legislature just passed a law that would restrict access to abortion by limiting in-clinic abortions after 12 weeks and abortions with medication after 10 weeks. (Abortion remains legal for a few more months during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy in North Carolina, making the state a top destination for people seeking abortions from states where the procedure is banned or heavily restricted).
In addition, state laws regarding sex education have not been updated since 2009, and the pandemic has forced the closure of long-standing sexual and reproductive health nonprofits such as Shift NC.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), North Carolina’s teen birth rate ranks 32nd in the nation. In 2020, state data shows that 7,749 teens ages 15-19 in North Carolina had reported a pregnancy.
Kristen Carroll, chief of reproductive health for the NC Department of Health and Human Service (NCDHHS), said much of North Carolina’s teen pregnancy work began in the 1980s.
North Carolina’s teen birth rate began to decline in the 1990s, falling 62% from 1996 to 2015, following a national trend.
The NCDHHS may fund resources for preventing adolescent pregnancy and supporting teens who are pregnant through Teen Pregnancy and Prevention Initiatives (TPPI). TPPI provides application-based funding to North Carolina organizations and schools, such as local health departments, high school teen parenting programs, and nonprofit organizations that provide additional support.
TPPI also funds a Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) to educate teens about abstinence, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and healthy relationships. This is consistent with North Carolina’s 2009 Healthy Youth Act, which updated sex education to be more inclusive but mandates abstinence and monogamous, heterosexual relationships as the norm for teens.
North Carolina has among the highest rates in the country for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. Teens ages 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 put together a map of resources for North Carolina teens 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 for pregnant and parenting teens, sexual health screenings, and more.
The resources on this list have been referred to us by people in the community who do the work, or are funded by TPPI. If you have another resource to share, let us know and we’ll add it to the map.
This is the first in a series of stories about reproductive/sexual health resources for teens.