Should SA Fund Teen Pregnancy Prevention?

High school junior Shalon Lewis shows off her life goals through artwork as part of the National Day To Prevent Teen Pregnancy event.
(Photo by Mary Tuma)

Two North Side City Council members voted against funding a teen pregnancy prevention program during Thursday’s meeting.

The item was part of a larger ordinance seeking approval for a little more than $10.6 million to participate in the Medicaid 1115 Waiver Program, which in addition to teen pregnancy prevention, includes projects in diabetes prevention, children’s oral health services, HIV and syphilis prevention, breastfeeding promotion and neighborhood health promotion.

District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher and District 9 Councilman Joe Krier both voted against funding for teen pregnancy prevention, which was voted on separately from the rest of the of the ordinance. Both Gallagher and Krier voted for the rest of the funding.

Gallagher said he was opposed to funding related to teen pregnancy prevention because, in his opinion, it is a family issue and not one the City should be involved with.

Mayor Ivy Taylor recused herself from voting on teen pregnancy prevention through the Medicaid 1115 Waiver Program because she sits on the board of Healthy Futures of Texas, which is a non-profit that works to prevent unplanned and teen pregnancies.

During a presentation to the City Council, Director of Public Health Dr. Thomas Schlenker said the teen pregnancy prevention program has a $23 million per year economic impact because of the reduction in teen births.

District 7 Councilwoman Mari Aguirre-Rodriguez, who is filling in for Councilman Cris Medina, said the program has prevented 1,000 births over five or six years. She said that reduction has resulted in more young women participating in the educational system, leading healthier lives and being part of a dynamic family system. “No one wants to see a 13-year-old girl pregnant,” she said.

Several other Council members, including District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez, District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal and Taylor voiced support for the program. “I disagree in characterizing it as a family issue,” Taylor said. “I think it’s a community issue and an economic development issue.” Taylor voiced her support, but recused herself from the vote.

One of SA2020’s goal was to reduce the teen birth rate in Bexar County by 15 percent, which according to a Metropolitan Health District fact sheet was met. The fact sheet also says that in 2012, women aged 19 and younger gave birth to 2,755 children. In 2000, that number was 3,818, a 38 percent decrease.

However, the 2012 Bexar County teen birth rate, for women aged 15 to 19, was 46 percent higher than the national rate, and the cost of taxpayer money that went toward health care, child welfare, incarceration and lost revenue was $59.6 million, according the Metropolitan Health District.

As for the North Side City Council members, teens in their districts were either below the national teen birth rate or in a few areas, one to two times the national teen birth rate in 2012, according to the Metropolitan Health District. Averages for teen birth rate inside the Loop 410 are either two to three times or three to four times higher than the national teen birth rate in 2012.

At this point, the teen pregnancy prevention program will receive a little more than $1.5 million in funding.