Schaefer lauds teen birth drop

July 18, 1994|By John Frece | John Frece,Sun Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer boasted to fellow governors yesterday that Maryland is one of only two states in the nation where births to single teen-agers have gone down over the past six years.

Mr. Schaefer, attending the annual summer meeting of the National Governors' Association here, credited the reduction to a $4 million public and private program known for its catchy television, poster and billboard ads promoting sexual abstinence and paternal responsibility.

Probably best known is the ad that features a chicken in basketball shoes, followed by the question: "What do you call a guy who makes a baby and flies the coop?" The chicken then delivers an ad-ending cluck.

Another memorable ad says: "Virgin: Teach your kid it's not a dirty word."

Mr. Schaefer told a panel of governors that when he first pushed the idea of promoting abstinence, "I was looked upon like an older person who didn't understand life." But teen pregnancy, he said, "leads to welfare, leads to drugs, leads to poor housing. And the kids themselves haven't got a chance to pull through."

Hal Donofrio, whose Baltimore advertising firm, Richardson, Myers & Donofrio, developed the campaign and who serves as executive director of the Campaign for Our Children program, showed the governors six of 13 television ads used in the Maryland campaign.

The Donofrio ads and other materials are being marketed to other states.

"The trends in Maryland are down" because of those mass media ads, combined with programs about teen pregnancy in every middle school in Maryland, Mr. Donofrio said.

The Schaefer administration distributed 1991 statistics from the Anne E. Casey Foundation which indicate that the percent of births by single teen-agers declined only in Maryland and New Jersey from 1985 to 1991.

In 1985, single teen-agers accounted for 9.1 percent of all births in Maryland, a figure that remained steady until it dropped to 8.6 percent in 1989, 8.3 percent in 1990 and 8.2 percent in 1991, according to the foundation.

Those were the most recent statistics the foundation had.

Maryland was ranked 20th among all states in 1991, according to the Casey Foundation figures. Utah had the lowest teen birth rate, 5.4 percent, and Mississippi the highest, 16.2 percent.

The District of Columbia's rate was 16.3 percent.

Among neighboring states, Virginia ranked 19th, Pennsylvania 30th, West Virginia 33rd and Delaware 34th.

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