Teenage pregnancy rates remain high in Tarrant County

By Tori Knox

As her two small children watch their favorite movie, “The Good Dinosaur,” 18-year-old stay-at-home mom Elizabeth Marquez talks about her experience as a teenage mother.
At 15 years old Marquez became pregnant with her first child while attending Trimble Tech High School.
Marquez’s story is not uncommon. Despite the nationally declining teen pregnancy and birth rates, Texas continuously finds itself near the top of the list.
The national birth rate for teenagers has decreased 69 percent from 1991 to 2015, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
But, in 2014, Texas’s birth rate of females ranging in age from 15 to 19 was almost 57 percent higher than the national average at 37.8 per 1,000, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Only four states have higher teen birth rates than Texas
Marquez said at 15 years old she and her now-husband wanted to become parents, but with a family history of having to try for a long time, were shocked when she became pregnant in less than a month.
Soon after the birth of her daughter, Aylin, Marquez said she and her husband were surprised to find Marquez was pregnant for the second time during her junior year with their son, Benjamin.
Teenage pregnancies in general are also higher than the national average in Texas.
Texas had a rate of 73 pregnancies per 1,000 females between the age of 15 and 19, compared to the national average of 57.4 per 1,000 in 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute — making Texas third in the nation for teenage pregnancies, behind New Mexico and Mississippi.
Population does not factor into the prevalence of teenage pregnancy.
Texas had about a 55 percent higher birth rate for 15 to 19-year-old females than California in 2014, although, according to the 2014 Census California’s population was larger than Texas.
Religion corresponds with sexual education and teen pregnancy as well.
Research published by BioMed Central, found the more religious a state, the higher the teen birth rate.
According to Pregnant Teen Help, multiple studies have found that religious teens have more sex than non-religion teens — they also do not use protection and don’t have as many abortions.
Pregnant Teen Help found that statistics show higher abortion rates in less-religious states.
The religious connections are part of the reason sexual education focuses so heavily on abstinence in religious states, according to Pregnant Teen Help.
According to the Pew Research Center, 64 percent of adults in Texas consider themselves highly religious, ranking it the 11th most religious state in the country.
The religious factor and lack of a comprehensive sexual education can be seen in Tarrant County, which is considered a part of the Bible Belt.
A 2010 religious census compiled by the Texas Almanac, states that more the 50 percent of Tarrant County adheres to a religion.
The Tarrant County birth rate for 15 to 19-year-old females is almost as high as the Texas average.
Tarrant County’s birth rate for females in that age range is 36 per 1,000 according to The Texas Campaign to Prevent Pregnancy.
Children at Risk finds high numbers for teen birth rates as well. In 2008, 12.4 percent of all live births in Tarrant County were to teenagers between 13 and 19 years old.
“Teen pregnancy rates, according to research, tend to be the highest in areas that offer abstinence only education as opposed to comprehensive sex education,” said Jeannine Gailey, associate professor of sociology at TCU.
A study published by the Journal of Adolescent Health found that adolescents who had a comprehensive sexual education had lower teen pregnancy rates than those with abstinence-only sex ed.
According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, abstinence-only sexual education resulted in an average 73.24 pregnancies per 1,000 girls between 14 and 19 years old
According to the Guttmatcher Institute, as of Dec. 1 sexual education was not mandatory by law in Texas.
The institute states that sexual education, when it is provided it is mandatory that contraception is discussed, but the focus is heavily on abstinence and the importance of sex within marriage.
“He [Benjamin, her second child] was a total, total, surprise,” Marquez said. “I was taking the pill everyday, everyday, everyday. We were just trying to wait longer to have another baby, but what happened was, when I switched to a different brand, a stronger dose, that’s the timing where I got pregnant.”
Marquez married the father of Aylin and Benjamin on June 25 of this year. She is currently pregnant with their third child.