SEX EDUCATION: Wilson Launches Ad Campaign Promoting Abstinence
A new advertising campaign to encourage teen abstinence was introduced Monday by the state Department of Health Services, "the second of a series that was launched last year as part of Gov. Pete Wilson's Partnership for Responsible Parenting's public awareness media campaign." The 60-second radio spots and mall kiosk signs target the state's "hot spots" of teen pregnancy -- including Bakersfield, Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco -- with messages in both English and Spanish to "encourage teens to 'Hold Off on Sex. Hold on to Your Future.'" The governor's campaign will continue through spring in response to statistics that rank California among the states with the "highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation" (California Department of Health Services release, 8/24). The Hayward Daily Review reports that in 1996, 12% of babies born in California had mothers age 19 or younger (Gyulai, 8/25). "These ads speak directly to teens about postponing sexual activity. They use language and social situations that teens can easily identify with," said State Health Director Kim Belshe. In the four radio ads, teenage girls say they will "hold off" on sex due to future plans, while noting how friends who are mothers are missing out on fun and pondering how tough life can be with a baby. An ad targeting teenage boys acknowledges the difficulty of becoming a teen dad.
Background On The Partnership
Wilson launched the Partnership for Responsible Parenting in April 1997 as the "largest teen pregnancy prevention measure" in the country. The campaign's approach aggressively targets at-risk youth through mentoring programs and attempts to "educate Californians about the issue of teen and unwed pregnancy and to inspire them to become active participants in the solution." The group provides toll-free numbers that offer facts and referrals to local programs: 877/746- 5363 and 888/862-8432 for Spanish-speaking callers (release, 8/24).
Abstinence Only Won't Work
Many specialists and several studies contend that preaching abstinence without providing "inspiring alternatives" is ineffective. Instead, they say that "it's much more effective to teach youths about birth control and to develop their skills and goals so they can decide for themselves." Dr. Jogi Khanna, director of maternal, child and adolescent health with the Alameda County Public Health Services Agency, says that "[t]he main thing that works is to have some goals for the children, starting in grade one. In countries where there is a lot of stress on achievement, there are very low teen pregnancy rates because young people know that, to achieve those things, they have to postpone pregnancy" (Daily Review, 8/25).