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City Partners With UHS In Teen Pregnancy Reduction Effort

San Antonio City Hall
Ryan Loyd
TPR News
Mike Gallagher, the newly appointed member to District 10, opposed the birth control agreement between the city and University Health System.

The City of San Antonio and the University Health System are partnering to target teen pregnancy.

A few years ago, San Antonio residents identified teen pregnancy as the biggest problem the city faces. While leaders with the SA2020 initiative say teen pregnancy is down, Metro Health Director Dr. Thomas Schlenker said the rate is still far above the national average at 40 percent.

To further reduce the pregnancy rate, the city reached an agreement with University Health to provide about 250 girls with the contraceptive each year for three years.

"It is a tiny little matchstick-sized piece that inserted under the skin, on the upper arm, that gives off a low level of hormone that prevents pregnancy," Schenker said.

One of the reasons Schlenker believes many people opposed the method is because of its cost of about $1,000 per device. A coalition of opponents told the city council they take religious exceptions, and they are worried about the safety.

City leaders discussed the arrangement during Thursday's city council A session, where all but one council member agreed with the proposal.

Newly-appointed District 10 Councilman Mike Gallagher, who replaced Carlton Soules, did not agree with the $850,000 city allocation to provide at-risk teenage girls with a contraception method called Nexplanon. He said several sources of information suggested the contraceptive is unsafe. Asked whether he voted against the measure for other reasons, he circled back to concerns over its safety.

"Mainly, it was mostly those health reports that came out and it was evidence from around the nation that warned us that this process could be dangerous," Gallagher said.

District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez said everything, including Aspirin, has a side effect.

The other council members supported the idea, including District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales. She represents the West Side, a part of town that include many of the at-risk girls who would be eligible for this program. Gonzales said it was important for her to support this aggressive campaign.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.