Monday, September 21, 2009 | Go to External Article

Teen pregnancy program saved from budget ax

San Antonio Express-News

By Melissa Fletcher-Stoeltje

Local and state elected leaders applauded Mayor Julián Castro and City Council members Monday for saving the city’s only teen pregnancy prevention program, Project WORTH.

Dr. Janet Realini, president of the nonprofit Healthy Futures, expressed her gratitude to lawmakers for not letting the city program, which espouses abstinence-plus education that also instructs teens in contraception, go belly-up.

“We know what works, but we can’t do it alone,” she said. “Now is the time for the community to step up.”

Project WORTH (Working on Real Teen Health) was on the endangered list when the city was forced to find more than $19 million in savings to balance the budget. The program would have seen its $235,000 budget cut by two-thirds, which would have effectively killed it.

Realini was joined by State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, State Rep. Mike Villarreal and several other speakers Monday in celebrating Project WORTH.

“We have had more than a decade to see what abstinence-only education has done,” Van de Putte said. “Today 46 percent of teen girls have already had sex by high school.

Fifty-seven percent of teen boys have had sex ... this is the sixth year in a row that Texas has led repeat teen births in the nation. One in four teens have had another child by age 18. If abstinence-only was working, we’d have different statistics.”

Villarreal spoke of the way teen pregnancy triggers a host of other social woes.

“We have to pay attention to this challenge of ours,” he said. “With the rise in teen pregnancy, the rise in young moms and dads, teens can’t go on to complete high school, let alone pursue a path to college. This generation of young babies are raised in households not emotionally or financially equipped to raise them. That perpetuates another generation of teens more likely to engage in unprepared sex.”

Realini said the teen birth rate costs San Antonio around $70 million a year.

Statewide, it represents an economic drag of more than $1 billion a year.

Realini also announced Monday that Healthy Futures has a fundraising goal to amass $55,000 before 2010 to expand programs and increase access to science-based sex education. “We know what works, and we need to do more,” she said.