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Voice of experience tells teens to abstain

April 05, 1998|By DON AINES

by Kevin G. Gilbert / staff photographer

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Abstain

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - When Sherry Cline talks to teenagers about abstaining from sex until marriage, she speaks from a different perspective: She didn't.

"They appreciate that I'm not an old lady who didn't have sex until I got married," Cline said last Monday after she and teenagers from her group, A+ For Abstinence!, met with U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., at the offices of Pregnancy Ministries Inc., in Chambersburg.

Cline, 26, of Waynesboro, admits she had sex as a teenager. The abstinence coordinator for Pregnancy Ministries, Cline is up front in saying she also lived with her husband, Eric, before they married.

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She also admits having paid for a friend's abortion, "even though I knew it was wrong when I did it."

"I talk about my past because I don't want them to think I'm bashing them because they're sexually active," she said of the teenagers she is trying to reach.

Cline feels her experiences allow her to speak honestly about abstinence.

James Buchanan High School Principal Rob Beaumont agrees.

"We've gotten a really positive response from the teachers and the kids. She's young and she can really relate to the kids," Beaumont said Friday.

"If they ask her a blunt question, she gives them a blunt answer," Beaumont said.

Now a Christian, Cline said in a public school setting it's teaching not preaching. The message she delivers must be couched in secular terms.

"I don't have to get moral to give them good reasons to wait," Cline said. A+ for Abstinence! also does programs in religious schools, in which she intertwines scripture with her message.

Much of her information comes from the New England Journal of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and other mainstream scientific journals and organizations, she said.

"I think the safe-sex message is overrated," particularly in its assertion that condoms can prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, Cline said.

She noted the Food and Drug Administration ordered one company to recall 57 million defective condoms last year. She said the FDA only tests for pores in condoms of 10 microns or more.

"There's a demo I do in my presentation based on five microns," she said. Using a Hula-Hoop and different-sized balls, she shows how a latex condom can fail with no obvious defects.

Sperm, she said, measures about three microns and the viruses that cause most sexually transmitted diseases are about 1.5 microns in size. Using a Ping-Pong ball, she illustrates how the AIDS virus is just 0.1 micron in size.

The physical, emotional and socioeconomic impact of a teen pregnancy, abortion or contracting a venereal disease make premarital sex too risky, Cline said.

For those who didn't wait for marriage, she has another message: Renewed virginity.

"Relating to the Christian programs, it's similar to renewing your commitment to Christ" by abstaining from sex again until marriage, Cline said.

In public schools, "It's about wiping your slate clean and starting over," she said. She said some of the students on her teen panels - both male and female - are renewed virgins.

Last week some of the teenagers presented a series of skits promoting abstinence to Specter. One 15-year-old from the Waynesboro area told the senator her advice is "Be a friend with whomever you're dating. I don't want to get pregnant. That's a big fear of mine."

Eric and Sherry Cline had their third child, Cody, on Christmas Eve. When she was younger, Sherry said, she didn't want children.

"The pro-choice movement says every child should be a wanted and loved child. That's why God gives you nine months, because it took Him seven months to talk me into it," she said of her first pregnancy.

A+ For Abstinence! will do its dramatic presentation for students at Greencastle-Antrim High School on Tuesday, April 14, followed by a panel discussion the next day.

For more information about A+ For Abstinence, call Cline at 1-717-765-0379.

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