Originally created 01/30/97

Fonda backs Miller's plan to add clinics



ATLANTA - Jane Fonda threw her star power Wednesday behind Gov. Zell Miller's plan to spend millions of dollars on family planning clinics and counseling programs to cut Georgia's teen pregnancy rate.

But critics charge Mr. Miller and Ms. Fonda want to send teens a mixed message: Don't have sex - but if you do, use state-bought contraceptives.

They are asking lawmakers for more than $1 million to promote "abstinence until marriage" programs.

"Teen pregnancy is caused by sexual intercourse, not by too little birth control," said Sen. Eric Johnson, R-Savannah.

"Parents tell their children that sex outside the marriage is wrong. Our religious institutions teach them that it is a sin and not acceptable to God. It is against the law in Georgia," said Mr. Johnson, the Senate Republican whip. "For the state to turn around and fund `teen-friendly family planning clinics' and distribute condoms is a slap in the face to many Georgians."

Mr. Miller wants to raise funding for teen pregnancy prevention efforts as part of his plan to reduce welfare rolls.

His proposed budget for the upcoming year includes money to expand family planning services in county health departments and create 15 new clinics in unconventional sites such as housing projects, substance abuse centers and welfare offices.

He also wants to expand an eighth-grade sexuality curriculum developed by Grady Memorial Hospital and taught to 500 Atlanta public school students each year, and to broaden a pilot program targeted at teen-age boys.

Mr. Miller and Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard are pushing increased funding for after-school programs as well.

"The only way to reverse the growth in teen-agers giving birth out of wedlock is through widespread partnerships that attack the problem from many different angles at the same time," the governor said during a press conference with Ms. Fonda and her teen pregnancy group, the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.

"The Georgia Campaign believes that the first message to young people has to be to support their choice of abstinence," said Ms. Fonda, a part-time Georgian as the wife of Turner Broadcasting chief Ted Turner.

"A lot of young people want to abstain. They know instinctively and intellectually they are not ready to participate in sexual activity," she said. "But if we stop at abstinence, we are discriminating against the other young people, close to 85 percent of them around the country, who for reasons that are often outside their control, are sexually active."

"We have to as adults make sure those children who are sexually active have the information and the services to not get pregnant and not get sexual diseases."

Both sides of the debate held Capitol press conferences to get their point across Wednesday.

Fonda was flanked by Miller, a few lawmakers and dozens of Georgia Campaign members in town for the group's convention.

Conservatives lined up about 20 legislators, former Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Greg McMichael, more than 100 youngsters, and performers promoting abstinence through a dance and rap music routine.

Johnson said policy-makers must abandoned the idea of "safe sex" promoted by programs that hand out contraceptives, which sometimes fail.

"`Safe sex' may ease the conscience of educators and bureaucrats, but it will not protect the lives of our daughters and sons," he said. "Abstinence until marriage is morally right, it is healthy, and it is smart economics. That should be the message. There must be no `buts."'