SAN ANTONIO -

The San Antonio City Council is getting some heat over the approval of a federally funded program which is designed to decrease the number of teen pregnancies in the area.

The council approved the more than $800,000 contract with the University Health System in a 10-1 vote on Thursday night.

The Metropolitan Health District initiated the program, which would offer long-acting reversible contraception to at risk teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 19 on Friday.

District 10 City Councilman Mike Gallagher voted against the contract citing concerns over the safety of the birth control.

"One thing that really surprised me was that we had a great turn out from very concerned citizens," said Gallagher. "They brought up all kinds of information, statistics, studies, which showed that much of what's going to be done under that program could harm the students that they are affecting."

However, Dr. Thomas Schlenker, director of Metro Health, said the reversible contraception is safe and that the implant is inserted under the skin, is effective for up to three years and can be removed at any time.

"It's a very safe and effective form of contraception that is ideally suited for teenage girls," said Schlenker. "And it hasn't been in wide use up to this point because it's very expensive."

Schlenker said in Bexar County alone, there are nearly 3,000 babies born to teen moms every year.

"(There's) a lifelong state of poverty, unemployment, poor education with many associated problems, simply because they had a child too soon," said Schlenker.

This type of contraception will be offered at to teenage girls who deliver at University Hospital, to teens with sexually transmitted diseases at the Metro Health clinic, and at the clinic at the Juvenile Detention Center.

The program is voluntary and parents have to consent to those under 18.

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