By Anna Gorman/Los Angeles Times
The first time the 16-year-old student visited Roosevelt High School’s health clinic, she needed emergency contraception. This time, she wanted regular birth control. “I don’t want to be pregnant,” she said while at the clinic. “I’m too young. I can’t take care of a baby.”
Throughout the school year, students visit the on-campus clinic to get birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling and screening for sexually transmitted diseases. The services, which are free and confidential, are offered through a unique collaboration between Planned Parenthood and the Los Angeles Unified School District designed to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies among teenagers at the Boyle Heights high school.
Although nonprofit groups frequently offer reproductive healthcare on school campuses around the nation, the partnership involving Planned Parenthood — long a target of antiabortion lawmakers in Washington — is the only one of its kind.
Birth rates among teenagers have dropped throughout California and Los Angeles County over the last several years. Statewide, the rate of births to teenagers 15 to 19 hit a record low in 2010 at 29 births for every 1,000, down from 37 in 2005. Despite the decline, there are still certain areas within the county with disproportionately higher numbers of young mothers, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The heavily Latino and low-income neighborhood around Roosevelt High School is one of them. Several other neighborhoods in East and South Los Angeles also had higher percentages of teenage births than the rest of the county.
“All areas of LAUSD are not created equal,” said Christine De Rosa, who works on adolescent health for the HIV and STD division of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “Rates vary according to high school attendance areas.”