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Coalition fights teen pregnancy in Pa.

January 29, 1999

Teen pregnancyBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The message is direct, to the point and hits between the eyes.

"If you don't like the odds, don't have sex."It's on nearly a dozen roadside billboards sponsored by the Teen Pregnancy Coalition of Waynesboro. Simply put, the message says, if you don't want a baby, AIDS or a sexually transmitted disease, abstain from sex.

The billboards depict a formation of sperm swimming toward an egg.

"It's out there in the public where it can hit them in the face," said Kathleen Kaminski, coalition president.

The coalition used grant money to pay for the billboards. The first ones were put up around Franklin County in December. Some will stay up through March. They cost about $3,000 a month, said Sherry Cline, 27, a coalition member.

The coalition chose the sites for the billboards to reach as many people as possible, Cline said.

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"We don't know how effective they've been, but we do know that people are talking. They drive by with their kids and they start conversations," she said.

Cline said the billboards are not too explicit for children to see. "Young children won't understand what it means. It's geared to teens who have had sex education classes."

"They get a different message from the media, from older kids and from their music," Kaminksi said. "They watch the soaps on television and see people hopping into bed with none of the repercussions or responsibilities that sex can bring - no unwanted pregnancies, no sexually transmitted disease and no broken hearts."

Kaminksi has a doctorate in human development and has been teaching secondary health and physical education for 33 years. She teaches in Chambersburg.

"I joined the coalition because I have to stay up on this issue," she said. "This is a major concern of mine. I've been on this soapbox throughout my career."

When she started teaching, girls who got pregnant were expelled from school while their boyfriends stayed in school and went on with their lives, she said. Things changed after a 1972 United States Supreme Court decision that barred schools from expelling girls because they were pregnant.

The coalition was organized in 1993 to bring several activist groups together to focus on the growing problem of teen pregnancy, Kaminski said. In that year, school health personnel were aware of 32 pregnancies at Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

"People decided to come together to do something about this problem," Kaminski said. The numbers have dropped in recent years, according to coalition figures.

So far in the current school year, there have been seven known pregnancies: two in grade 9, two in grade 10 and three in grade 12. In the 1997-98 school year, there were 17 known pregnancies. The year before there were 21.

The coalition includes clergy, medical and school personnel and representatives from Family Health Services, Abstinence Education and Related Services, Pregnancy Ministries and Girl Scouts.

It meets at Waynesboro Hospital on the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. Anyone wishing to join can attend a meeting or call Cline at 717-765-0397.

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