Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Abstinence Is OK

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Abstinence Is OK

Article excerpt

RECENTLY I spent a few days in Baltimore's inner city. Driving away on a late afternoon, I saw a public-service billboard in an empty lot with a message that surprised me. In huge red letters the billboard proclaimed: VIRGIN: Teach your kid it's not a dirty word.

Three cheers for the message that abstinence is OK. Even Magic Johnson has seen the light and jumped on the abstinence bandwagon. But because teenage pregnancy is about as common as rap music here, is this public-service billboard just a feeble David with no sling shot facing a sex-charged Goliath?

The answer is no. David in this case is Hal Donofrio of Richardson, Myers & Donofrio, a Baltimore advertising agency. With private funds, money from the state of Maryland, and plenty of support from Gov. William Schaefer, Mr. Donofrio and his associates designed a multimedia campaign and classroom program, including counseling, to stop young kids from having sex. Known as the "Campaign For Our Children," it is the first of its kind.

In a phone interview Donofrio said, "We did some research and learned that 6 percent of kids between 10 and 12 had had intercourse in the last four weeks, but that 80 percent of kids 14 and younger were sexually abstinent. We wanted to get them to extend their abstinence."

The project was triggered by a group of pro-life and pro-choice advocates in the state legislature. They put aside their differences and said, "What can we do to try to stop the soaring rate of teenage pregnancies in the state?"

When all costs were added, teenage mothers were costing Maryland a staggering $454 million a year. Baltimore was No. 1 in the nation for births to girls 14 and under.

In a society where sexual images bombard kids daily, what Donofrio is doing is to effectively neutralize those images.

With 27 years experience in media and a desire to "stop the terrible waste in lives," he targeted boys and girls from 9 to 14 with a campaign that costs a modest $1 million a year. The ad campaign - TV and radio commercials, billboards, newspapers, buttons, a 24-hour hotline - works in conjunction with three lesson plans in the schools and material for parents. …

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