TEEN PREGNANCY: Wilson Policies Helped Reduce Rates
California's teenage birthrate has dropped "substantially" across the past six years, the Davis administration reported yesterday. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that newly appointed state Health and Human Services Secretary Grantland Johnson "credited" Wilson administration policies for the decline, which among teenagers aged 15 to 19 fell 22% from 1992 to 1997, the last year for which data were available. Among girls aged 10 through 14, the rate fell 15.4%, "the largest annual decrease ever reported," according to the Chronicle. While California's teen birthrate "is higher than the national average," the figures released yesterday show it is declining "at three times the national average," the Chronicle reports. Kathy Kneer, chief lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, praised Wilson's "comprehensive approach" saying, "He really gave communities the tools. He put real dollars, proportional to the need. ... I'm not aware of any other state that spends as much as we do." Johnson said, "The message is clear: These programs work." While the numbers were promising for every ethnic group -- white teens' birthrates fell 10.7%, Hispanics' 8.3%, blacks' 4.5% and Asians' 6.5% -- Johnson highlighted the "enormous task" still before the state as California "still had 59,851 births to teenage mothers" in 1997.
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Johnson also announced that Gov. Gray Davis' new state budget contains funds for continuing pregnancy prevention efforts. Nearly $136 million will go for "family planning services to low- income Californians," up from the current level of $128 million. Also up is funding for a Male Responsibility Program, which would receive $3.7 million -- an increase of $800,000. The budget also includes $8.5 million for "a media campaign aimed at localized efforts to prevent teenage pregnancy," down from the current $9.3 million amount. Davis' budget proposal also maintains the current $20 million allocated grants to community colleges for pregnancy prevention programs (Russell, 2/9).
Separately, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that health officials are still concerned about the disproportionate rates of Hispanic teenagers becoming pregnant. According to "preliminary statistics" for Santa Clara County, 68% of teen mothers are Latina while only 15% who are white, despite the fact that Latinos account for only 30% of the overall county populations and whites make up 45%. Lorena Madrid, coordinator of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Network, said her group is set to launch several pregnancy prevention projects, including activities for latchkey teens, mentoring programs, teen panels, speaker bureaus and job training. While "there is no single answer why the Latina birthrate is so high," the Chronicle reports that Latino teens say their hard- working, time-pressed parents "do not have enough time for them, let alone a discussion on sex" (Fernandez, 2/9). Click here for coverage of other Santa Clara County pregnancy prevention programs.