Trump ad­min. threat­ens a good news story

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Opinion - Thomas Elias

Af­ter a year of mas­sive fires and floods, elec­tric­ity black­outs, util­ity rate in­creases and gaso­line price goug­ing, Cal­i­for­nia at last has a good news story to en­joy: The state’s teenage birth rate has reached a new mod­ern-era low.

But wait — that good news is threat­ened by the Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which seeks to cut back Ti­tle X money that funds things like vans giv­ing girls rides to com­mu­nity health cen­ters where they can get birth con­trol sup­plies, preg­nancy test­ing and tests for sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases.

This is now the sub­ject of one in the long se­ries of law­suits Cal­i­for­nia is fight­ing in or­der to pre­serve pro­grams that keep the stan­dard of liv­ing here high and pol­lu­tion lower than it’s been in many decades.

Be­yond the is­sue of why Trump and his min­ions would want to cut this fund­ing — anti-abor­tion and birth con­trol ide­ol­ogy is the like­li­est rea­son — is the unan­swered ques­tion of why this in­car­na­tion of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would want to cut pro­grams that re­duce wel­fare and pro­mote ed­u­ca­tion of young per­sons.

In the face of po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions, it may be con­struc­tive to delve into the rea­sons why birth rates are down among ju­nior high and high school stu­dents.

And they have dropped con­sid­er­ably over the last few years. With just un­der 14 live births for ev­ery 1,000 fe­males aged 15 to 19 in 2018, Cal­i­for­nia is now well be­low the na­tional av­er­age of 19 births per 1,000 fe­males in that age range. Arkansas is high­est with 33; Mas­sachusetts low­est at just eight.

These fig­ures mean there is still room for plenty of im­prove­ment here. That’s es­pe­cially true in cer­tain coun­ties: Kern County, for ex­am­ple, had 32 live births per 1,000 young women, more than dou­ble the statewide rate. Marin County was low­est at six.

Both the na­tional fig­ures and those for Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties show strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween low teenage birth rates and the wealth and ed­u­ca­tion lev­els of adults. Mas­sachusetts has the high­est pro­por­tion of col­lege-ed­u­cated per­sons in Amer­ica and Marin among the high­est ed­u­ca­tion rates for Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties. Both places also rank high in eco­nomic terms.

But more than in­creased pros­per­ity and ed­u­ca­tion has low­ered the Cal­i­for­nia num­bers. Gov­ern­ment and pri­vate pro­grams also have helped enor­mously.

The state’s Fam­ily Plan­ning, Ac­cess, Care and Treat­ment pro­gram pro­vides free con­tra­cep­tives and coun­sel­ing to young peo­ple and is avail­able at more than 2,000 lo­ca­tions statewide, in­clud­ing all Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia and Cal State Univer­sity cam­pus health cen­ters.

The em­pha­sis on con­tra­cep­tion also re­duced abor­tions even as Cal­i­for­nia’s teen birth rate de­clined.

Abor­tions in 2018 were per­formed on 16 women out of ev­ery 1,000 in the 15-44

age range, a drop of about 15 per­cent over the last five years.

This demon­strates that pro-life lob­by­ists who ad­vo­cate against both abor­tions and mak­ing con­tra­cep­tives widely-avail­able are con­tra­dict­ing them­selves.

The bet­ter and the more wide­spread the con­tra­cep­tive pro­gram, the fewer abor­tions in any state or area.

And con­tra­cep­tives are very widely-used by Cal­i­for­nia youths. The fed­eral Cen­ters of Dis­ease Con­trol re­ported that more than half of all sex­u­ally ac­tive high school stu­dents in the state say they used a con­dom the last time they had sex. An over­lap­ping 30 per­cent said they re­lied on birth con­trol pills and other non-con­dom meth­ods in their most re­cent sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ence.

Then there was the fail­ure of sev­eral statewide ballot mea­sures that re­quired parental con­sent for abor­tions.

Be­cause such con­sent re­mains op­tional for teenage girls, they can and of­ten do seek coun­sel­ing in large num­bers. They might be in­hib­ited if coun­selors were re­quired to in­form par­ents.

This all amounts to a vastly un­der-pub­li­cized good news story. For fed­eral sta­tis­tics over the last 10 years show that al­most half of all teenage moth­ers leave school for at least a few years af­ter giv­ing birth. Those who don’t drop out must com­bine moth­er­hood with stud­ies and what­ever jobs they hold, of­ten crimp­ing aca­demic progress.

This de­prives many young women of col­lege ed­u­ca­tions and low­ers their po­ten­tial for pro­fes­sional and fi­nan­cial suc­cess, of­ten for the rest of their lives.

The fact that fewer and fewer young women are now ex­posed to such hard­ships is a good news story of large pro­por­tions and one of which Cal­i­for­nia can feel jus­ti­fi­ably proud. Email Thomas Elias at [email protected]

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