Approaches to Teen Pregnancy Issues in Calif., Texas Provide Study in Contrasts

May 14, 2012 — Experts on adolescent health say a key reason some states are more effective than others at reducing teen pregnancy is that they have taken steps to ease teens' access to contraception, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

According to the Express-News, California and Texas two decades ago both faced soaring teen birth rates. Since then, rates have dramatically declined in California, while Texas -- which ranked fourth in the nation for the teen births in 2010 -- is still struggling with the problem.

Subsidized Family Planning

Experts attribute the improvements in California to state policies and programs that have given teens greater access to contraception and other reproductive health services. At many of the state's 183 school health clinics in low-income neighborhoods, reproductive health care and condoms are offered at no cost. California also provides family planning care to teens through Medicaid and the federally subsidized program Family PACT. In 2010, the state spent $102 million to provide family planning services through Family PACT to more than 125,000 teens ages 17 and younger.

By contrast, Texas in 2010 spent $10 million on family planning services for 49,000 low-income teens through Medicaid or the Department of State Health Services. An additional 13,500 18- and 19- year olds received care through the Medicaid Women's Health Program, which has become embroiled in a fight over the state's efforts to exclude Planned Parenthood from the program.

Other cuts to family planning funding in Texas reduced University Health System's budget from $1.9 million to $600,000, forcing the health system to reduce its nine clinics to four. In 2011, UHS provided reproductive care to 900 low-income teens, a spokesperson said.

Policies on Access

The two states also differ in their policies on how and when teens can obtain contraception, according to the Express-News. In California, minors can legally obtain contraception without parental consent, while teens in Texas must have permission from a guardian, unless they are in the military or financially independent. Further, few school-based clinics in Texas offer contraceptive care (Fletcher Stoeltje, Express-News, 5/9).