Lyanne A. Guarecuco
City Councilman Rey Saldaña
On average, 39 teen mothers in San Antonio give birth each week — a number that has dropped 53 percent over the last decade. But, according to new city data, San Antonio's teen birth rate remains 49 percent higher than the national average.
According to Metro Health's new data
for 2016 released Tuesday, teen pregnancy has cost San Antonio taxpayers at least $45.4 million. It found 69 percent of teen mothers to be between the ages of 18 or 19, 29 percent of teen mothers are between 15 and 17, and 2 percent of teen mothers are between 10-14 years old.
The data also revealed that the fathers are typically older than the teen mothers: 36 percent were between 18 and 20 years old, 26 percent were over 21 years old, and only 11 percent were under 18. (The remaining 27 percent is unknown.)
City leaders, joined by teen members of Project Worth, Metro Health’s program for teens to learn about the risks and consequences of teen pregnancy, presented this data at the San Antonio Central Library Tuesday morning.
“A lot of the times, [teens] don’t really know any information about the teen pregnancy rates in San Antonio," said Gema Aleman, a senior at Burbank High School and Project Worth member. "I think it’s really important, especially for the kids in high school, to know about this information and be aware so that we can find a way to work together to fight this issue."
Metro Health Director Colleen Bridger called teen pregnancy a “winnable battle,” saying several factors, like increased community engagement, have reduced the number of teen births each year.
Although the new data reveals the rate of teen pregnancy in San Antonio has steadily declined (in 2014, an average of 47 teenagers
gave birth each week), the city continues to struggle to decrease the rate of second pregnancies for teen mothers who have already had at least one child. In 2016, teen mothers who had already had at least one child accounted for around 20 percent of the 2,044 babies born to mothers between the ages of 10-19 in San Antonio.
Bridger said Metro Health plans to focus on two things that could help the rate of repeat teen births decline: access to long-acting reversible contraceptives like an intrauterine device (IUD) and mental health counseling for teens who are already parents.
Councilman Rey Saldaña also said teen pregnancy was something he was familiar with growing up in San Antonio — when he was in 7th grade, his 12-year-old friend became pregnant.
“Life is hard enough for teens, especially in circumstances that are difficult to climb out of. To compound that with teen pregnancy is that much tougher, which is why we need to focus on this issue,” Saldaña said.
Both Saldaña and Bridger advocated for “data-driven, evidence-based” programs, meaning looking outside abstinence-only sex ed. In 2015-2016, more than 83 percent of Texas school districts
had either no sex ed, or taught abstinence-only sex ed.
The 2016 data also shows that several areas in San Antonio disproportionately have higher rates of teen pregnancies.
City of San Antonio / Metro Health
Teen Birth Rates by School District Boundaries
The San Antonio zip code with the highest number of teen births, 78203, is located in the middle of the area encompassed by San Antonio Independent School District, where the number of teen births is the highest in the the city. Several zip codes within SAISD, like 78207, 78210, 78220, and 78202 have a teen birth rate three to four times the national average.
But hardly any school districts in San Antonio are immune to teen pregnancies — most districts have at least some areas where the teen birth rate is at least twice the national average.
"We want to be transparent, and we really want to track our progress, or if we're not making progress, figure out what to do about it," Bridger said.