California’s teen birth rate has been dropping for several years, decreasing from 37 per 1,000 in 2005 to 29 in 1,000 in 2010. But it remains disproportionately high in some areas, like the heavily Latino and low-income area around Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles.
To help students prevent pregnancy, Roosevelt High School partnered with Planned Parenthood to offer contraception and counseling at an on-campus health clinic separate from the school nurse’s office. The program began in 1997 as a collaboration with a local hospital, but it ended in 2006 — and after the clinic’s nurse saw 32 positive pregnancy tests between March 1 and June 1 of 2008, she reached out to Planned Parenthood.
Now, the women’s health organization provides a nurse assistant, free contraception, and pregnancy and STD testing to students. A California program that provides family planning to low-income and uninsured residents pays for the services, and students do not have to have their parents’ permission to visit the health clinic. But officials say they do not face strong opposition from parents:
Nurse practitioner Sherry Medrano, who runs the Roosevelt health clinic, said teenagers rarely go outside their comfort zone for family planning. By law, students can go to Medrano and her staff without the permission of their parents. “They feel much safer and much more comfortable coming to a school-based health clinic,” she said. [...]
Planned Parenthood’s Los Angeles executive director, Sue Dunlap, said Latino families generally want access to information and care. “We really don’t experience the traditional narrative of angry parents not wanting access to reproductive care in the schools,” she said. “It’s really the opposite.”
The teen pregnancy rate has dropped to the lowest level in 40 years, which researchers contribute to better contraception use by teenagers. Giving students the information they need as well as increased access to contraception, as Roosevelt High School has done, will help them to prevent unintended pregnancies and actively protect their own health.