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When it comes to Latina teen pregnancies, California’s doing something right


Something good is happening in California.

For a state more accustomed to bad news — a broke state economy, a slashing of public services, an increase in health premiums by the state’s largest health insurer, rising college tuition rates, escalating home foreclosures, crime, etc. — today’s news that the state’s Latina teens are having less babies than their counterparts across the country is excellent news.


According to the California Department of Public Health, California’s teen birth rate is at a record low. For Latina teens, though they still have the undesirable distinction of having the largest teen pregnancy rate in the state, their numbers have gone down from 62 percent in 2007 to 57 percent in 2008.

Pregnant middle-school students (Source:

This decline bucks the national trend of an increase in Latina teen pregnancies in states throughout the Southwest, Southeast and Midwest.

With more Latina teens having multiple births while still unprepared for motherhood, lacking a basic high school education, or a decent paying job and depending on help from cash-strapped family members and straining public services, California’s success begs the question, “How?”

It’s not so much what they did but what they refused to do.

What they didn’t do was believe the hype that an abstinence-only curriculum works for every teen.

California makes sure their students receive “comprehensive sexual health education.”

“Comprehensive sexual health education” means education regarding human development and sexuality, including education on pregnancy, family planning, and sexually transmitted diseases …abstinence-only education is not permitted in California public schools.

Abstinence was so popular back in the day because it was tied to federal dollars and heavily promoted by the former administration but contrary to a recent report that shows it being the cure-all for putting the brakes on teen hormones, one Texas commentator puts the issue in perspective.

The abstinence message is indeed an important part of sexuality education. But as the researchers themselves stated, it is only one part. Most kids will need more than just abstinence education — because someday, they’ll be more than just kids.

Many states throughout the country have continued to take ulta-conservative stands on sexual health education, even while the teens in their states are hooking up and producing offspring.

It’s clear that a combined approach in presenting sex education to students — both abstinence and medically correct contraceptive information — is the only way to get this issue under control and start turning around a demographic that threatens to be the majority in the population that will drag future economies down because of low skills, low educational achievement levels, the higher likelihood of living in poverty with the highest number of children who will repeat the examples of their parents.

Staving off pregnancy in the teen years is a no-brainer on just what a win-win situation it is for the teenager, her/his family, the economy, etc.

It isn’t until legislators quit trying to impose their religious/personal beliefs on a population that will do what has come naturally for thousands of years and hundreds of generations before them that the situation can begin to reverse itself.

We have only to look at California to see the truth.

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  • Zamanthia
    February 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    These are indeed great news! I hope that other states will follow California in promoting this approach in sexual education which is tied to other issues, such as reproductive rights, economic opportunities and community growth, moreover in the Latino community.

  • Justso
    February 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Alright. Where have I heard this before.
    Listen. I’m Latino. I’m 54 years old. And I’ve been hearing this ‘latinas-getting-pregnant-before-graduating-high school’ thing since 1973 — when I GRADUATED HIGH SCHOOL!
    Dude, how long until we shake this one off???! Another 100 years??!! In the future, when there are humanly-inhabitable cities on the Moon and Mars, are we STILL going to be dealing with this???!
    Dude, change the channel! People are getting tired of hearing the SAME OLD cr-p!
    Listen. Enough is enough already!
    TO THE PARENTS: You get your s–t together and EDUCATE your kids and GET INVOLVED in their lives/schooling!!
    TO THE KIDS: If you get knocked up in high school it’s almost a guaranteed ticket to POVERTY for the rest of your life!!
    Got it??!
    OK. To summarize:
    1. Parents: be parents; that’s not grandma’s job — it’s YOURS!
    2. Students: stay students, not mothers.

  • irma
    February 26, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Teen pregnancy unfortunately seems to go hand in hand with the lack of a formal education. I watched how a teen age pregancy affected the life of one of my cousins. She got married at 16, and left her husband and daughter at the age of 23. Faced with the prospect of losing her youth, she abandoned her family. My cousin was lucky, because the father of her child was a responsible guy. He got a job- he really loved her . He even bought her a house. It wasnt enough.
    I heard the message loud and clear.
    Don’t get pregnant until you get what you want. I wish young women everywhere would THINK before they have unprotected sex.

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