Why are birth rates higher for Latina teens than others?
When Viridian Covarrubias announced she was pregnant at 15, a family group meeting was held. But she was only a bystander.
Covarrubias and her boyfriend – then both students at Fresno High School – watched as their parents discussed that the two should get married and improve the baby together. Her father and uncles started making plans to convert the garage into a small living space for the soon-to-be category of three.
“They are the conventional Mexican family. His parents stumbled on mine and said, ‘We know what our son and your daughter did. They’re now planning to be parents. What’s the next phase?’” said Covarrubias, now 18. “They mentioned our options. It was, ‘OK, you’re going to help keep the baby. Who’s planning to work? Who’s planning to school? What’s the financial situation?’ Which was virtually it?”
Covarrubias has become a full-time student at Fresno State, picking right up shifts at McDonald’s in between classes. She and Martin Reyes are engaged, and their son, Sebastian, is 2.
Reyes didn’t finish senior school and currently works at a cell phone company. He says he’s only five credits in short supply of his old school diploma and plans to spend.
“The baby was coming, so I’d to begin getting money to get things and try to aid the kid,” said Reyes, now 21. “I enjoy my son. It’s the best thing that happened to me. But lots of things changed. I was just 17.”
“It came up positive, and at first, we were like, ‘It’s not true. It should be because it’s cheap. It can’t be true,’” she said. “I’d barely finished my sacraments. A female at church didn’t even congratulate me when she found out – she just said, ‘You need to get married.’”
Covarrubias was terrified to break the news headlines to her father. Her mother had shared with her that if she ever had sex, she needed to ask her for birth control. But when the time came, she didn’t confide in her mother. And her father blamed her mother for Covarrubias ‘pregnancy.
“They think if you’re on contraception, you’re sex and fooling around. I understand some parents are scared to talk to their kids about sex because they think then they’re telling them it’s OK to have sex,” she said. “When I started sex, I was scared to tell my mom because I felt like I would disappoint her. Which, I type of did because I ended up pregnant.”
Reyes was scared, too. He remembers crying when he finally got up the courage to tell his mother that she would be described as a grandmother.
“I didn’t know how to break it to her. I never had ‘the talk with my parents,” he said. “My dad just said, ‘Well; now you’ve surely got to look after the child. There’s no going back.’”
Latinas have the best teen pregnancy rate of any group. The birth rate (per 1,000 girls) for white teens in California is nine compared to a rate of 29 for Hispanic teens, based on the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The teen birth rate for black teens is also disproportionately high, at 23.
In 2014, the most recent county-level data, nearly 75 percent of the teen births in Fresno County were to Hispanic mothers.
While research indicates that poverty, access to health clinics, and other socioeconomic factors play a role in teen pregnancy rates, Socorro Satilla, executive director of Fresno Barrios Undo’s, has seen family beliefs add barriers to sex education.
“Latina moms have said they’d rather have their daughter pregnant than on contraception because if the household realizes she’s on contraception, she’s a ho. But if she gets pregnant, ‘Oh, she had sex once and got pregnant.
Racial disparities also exist among abortion rates. The abortion rate for Hispanic women is double the rate of white women. In contrast, black women are five times more prone to have an abortion when compared to white females, according to a written report by the Guttmacher Institute.