Teen pregnancy rates remain high for Sacramento's Latinas

Barriers to reproductive health eyed as one reason

Selena Morales was 15 when she discovered she was pregnant.

Although teen birth rates had been dropping steadily for several years, Morales was one of thousands in her situation: Young Latinas make up a majority of new and repeat teen moms, according to a newly released California Department of Public Health report on adolescent birth rates.

The latest data for Sacramento County put the teen birth rates for Latinas and blacks at about 45 per 1,000, far above the state average, and double that of whites or Asian/Pacific Islanders.

Raquel Simental of Planned Parenthood noted that barriers to accessing reproductive health services are often greater in communities of color.

Overall teen birth rates did trend down over the 2000-13 period covered by the state report, but the county shows a particularly dramatic drop after 2007 for all groups, especially Asian/Pacific Islanders, which plummeted by half. Latinas and whites each dropped by more than a third.

Simental attributes that drop to a huge investment at the state level to reduce teen pregnancies, citing the Patient Access Care and Treatment program, which publicly funds access to reproductive health services for low-income teens, and grants in the early 2000s for aggressive contraceptive outreach in underserved communities.

Morales said some family members tried to talk to her about terminating the pregnancy, but the father's family more readily embraced the idea of a baby. She attributes this contrast, in part, to their religious and social traditions. His family is Catholic; hers is nondenominational Christian.

“My family is more Americanized,” she said. “His family is from Mexico. It makes a big difference.”

Morales is due to deliver her second baby in December. She and the father are married. After finishing high school a semester early, Morales, at 19, has a year of college under her belt. Her goal is to attend medical school.