State Birth Rate Down, Valley Birth Rate Up

Fresno, CA When /*Sara Lucha*/ was 15-years old she found out she was pregnant with Angelique. "Once she got here there was more reason to stay in school," she said.

Now Lucha is a Sophomore at /*Fresno State*/, majoring in criminology and hopes to graduate in 3 1/2 years. With the odds stacked against her, she is finding success as a teenage single mother. "Although we are statistics, we can redefine the statistics," said Lucha.

Statistically the birth rate in /*California*/ has dropped 48% since 1991.

"I think it's access and I think it's education based," said Mica Ghimenti with Planned Parenthood.

Ghimenti said state statistics reveal a positive trend but do not reflect what is happening here in the Valley. Most Valley County's birth rates actually increased between 2006 and 2007. Madera County's is the highest with more than 65 births per one thousand teen girls.

Tax dollars spent to care for the teen births in these counties totals $215-million. Ghimenti said one solution to reduce this problem is comprehensive sex education. "If we give them the information on how to make a healthy choice and how to protect themselves if they choose to have sex, I think our rates will go lower," she said.

Deborah Hughes runs the daycare service at /*Fresno High School*/ so teen parents can complete their education. "If they come to school they can graduate, and if they graduate they can get better jobs and if they get better jobs they can pay taxes," said Hughes. Something Sara Lucha hopes to accomplish once she graduates.

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