San Antonio has cut the rate of teen births in half over the past decade, but the city’s rate is still almost 50 percent higher than the national rate, according to a new report from the city’s Metropolitan Health District.
Metro Health Director Colleen Bridger said teen pregnancy is declining at a faster rate in San Antonio than the rest of the country, but the national teen birth rate is much lower.
“I think of this as a good news, bad news scenario,” Bridger said. “We still have 2,000 plus teen births a year. That’s way too many. That’s just entirely too many — 39 a week. That’s entirely too many. So yeah, I’m happy with the progress. I’m not happy with where we are.”
According to the Metro Health report, which is based on provisional data from Bexar County, a disproportionate number of teen mothers live in central and southern parts of the city, including several pockets within the boundaries of San Antonio Independent School District.
The comparatively high teen pregnancy rate within her district’s footprint inspired Burbank High School senior Gema Aleman to be a part of Metro Health’s teen pregnancy initiative, Project Worth. Gema said several of her classmates have given birth.
“I actually know quite a few that have had kids, and they had to leave school,” Gema said. “It’s hard because I know they want to continue but when you have a kid it just makes it difficult.”
As a teen ambassador with Metro Health, Gema gives presentations about teen pregnancy at area schools.
Bridger said, for the most part, school districts are willing to talk about sex, including conversations about contraceptives instead of only talking about abstinence.
She thinks that willingness has helped San Antonio drop its teen birth rate slightly below the state average from 2015. Texas has the fourth highest teen birth rate in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“It can be a controversial issue, right? And a lot of people just don’t want to talk about sex. ‘If you talk about sex, they’ll have sex.’ We know that’s not true. The research shows us time and time again that when you have open, honest conversations with kids about sex they respond well, they respond appropriately, and teen pregnancy goes down,” Bridger said. “There’s still some that aren’t having these conversations, and that’s reflected in some of the teen pregnancy stats that we see.”
Bridger said the teen pregnancy rate is important because it’s tied to the poverty rate and impacts the level of education teens receive and the type of parents they’re able to be.
“It’s not just about, you know, kids having babies,” she said. “It’s about the effect on society when kids have babies, and what that means for both those teenagers as well as the babies that they’re having.”
Camille Phillips can be contacted at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille