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European condom ads coming to America

European-style television ads asking parents to urge their teen-age children to use condoms will debut next month with a test run in southern Oregon.

Co-sponsored by the local Planned Parenthood affiliate and Jackson County health officials, one 30-second ad features a parental letter that says, “We care about you. Protect yourself. Love, Mom and Dad,” with some of the “Os” replaced by unwrapped condoms.

The other ad shows a passionate teen-age couple. The boy says, “I want this moment to last forever.” The girl opens an envelope that reads “Love, Mom and Dad,” and takes out a condom. “I don’t,” she tells him.

The ads were hailed earlier this month by a gathering of about 100 clergy, media, social service workers and educators.

However, a Planned Parenthood survey in southern Oregon last year, conducted in Eugene, Springfield, Medford and Grants Pass, showed the public is strongly divided about using mass media to promote condom use.

Jim Sedlak, executive director of STOPP International, a project of the Virginia-based American Life League, thinks the ads send the wrong message.

“You’re asking parents to condone what most religions would call immoral practices,” he told WorldNetDaily. “Most of the religious people where these ads are being shown have beliefs that object to pre-marital sexual activity.”

Planned Parenthood said the survey was a starting point to measure changes in public attitudes during a five-year effort by its Southwestern Oregon affiliate to incorporate European sex-education methods into its program, the Eugene Register-Guard newspaper reported in July 2002.

The agency says the “rights, respect, responsibility” model used in European countries “recognizes the right of young people to have information, respects their role in being part of the solution and supports their responsible decisions about sexual conduct.”

Mary Gossart, director of education and training for Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon, claims countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands have used these strategies to drastically lower their teen pregnancy and abortion rates.

Teen abortion rates in Oregon in 1999, the last year comparative statistics were available, were six times higher than in Germany, she says.

Gossart contends intense media advertising, readily available birth control supplies and information have not encouraged promiscuity among European youth, the Register-Guard reported. She cites statistics saying on average teen-agers in France, Germany and the Netherlands become sexually active one to two years later than American teens.

“All their programs are based on research,” Gossart said, according to the paper. “They only use what works. They evaluate constantly. We (in the United States) have so politicized it; we let a lot of stuff get in the way. We really don’t take these public-health approaches.”

STOPP’s Sedlak insists the European claims of success are misleading, because they come from “dying countries,” where the birth rates, roughly 1.5 children per family, are below the population replacement level of about 2.2 per family. He believes the sexual activity of European youth, with many different partners, has led to diseases causing widespread infertility.

“Every place I go, I challenge every Planned Parenthood to produce any scientific report to show their programs have ever resulted in decreasing teen pregnancy,” he said. “They have never been able to produce such a report.”

The Oregon Planned Parenthood initiative has sponsored trips to Europe for local community and church leaders to witness the European approach and has held a series of media luncheons to help gradually warm up communities to the idea.

“We realize what we’re asking of our society is to make a fundamental change,” Gossart told the Eugene paper last July. “This is really an effort to engage the media community. It’s kind of the next step. It’s another baby step in that long, long process.”

Sedlak contends Planned Parenthood, which manufactures its own brand of condoms, is using this as a marketing campaign.

“The measure of success will be how many condoms they sell,” he said, noting the nonprofit group made a profit of $12.2 million last year.