suntimes
ALOOF 
Weather Updates

Billboards make you wonder, what if males were the ones who got pregnant?

Billboards depicting teen boys looking pregnant are part new campaign by Chicago Department Public Health raise awareness thmales have responsibility

Billboards depicting teen boys looking pregnant are part of a new campaign by the Chicago Department of Public Health to raise awareness that males have a responsibility in teen pregnancies, too.

storyidforme: 49334913
tmspicid: 18358611
fileheaderid: 8252786

Updated: June 18, 2013 8:16AM



I noticed her as soon as I pulled into the gas station.

She must have been waiting for a ride that didn’t seem to be coming. So young and already mom to two kids on nonstop whine. Every now and then she’d shoot them a look that said, “Shut up already.” But mostly she sat on a concrete embankment staring out at traffic, a resigned look on her face.

In that moment, I wished I had a video camera so I could capture that scene and show it to every teen I know. All those TV shows and music videos that treat sex as entertainment without consequences? Here was proof of the sad reality once the music stops.

I bet this wasn’t what she had in mind for her life. It’s always made me so mad that it’s overwhelmingly females who are left with the babies teen pregnancy produces, yet as Grandma used to say, it takes two to tango. Where the heck are the dads?

That teen’s demeanor said it all, and seeing something like that, rather than hearing the age-old precautions, really drives the point home.

That’s why I can’t praise enough the new campaign, Unexpected, that the Chicago Department of Public Health just rolled out. The most provocative part is the billboards at L stations, bus stops and sprinkled through neighborhoods that have the highest rates of teen pregnancy.

The billboards feature teen boys made to look as if they are sporting pregnant bellies. The images drive home a couple of points: that this impending parenthood is a surprise, like teen pregnancy itself (a whopping 90 percent are unintended, according to the CDPH); and that teen pregnancy is the responsibility of the female AND male involved.

The written message on the billboards also remind that if you are a teen thinking of becoming sexually active, use a condom. Or, here’s a novel idea: Wait.

The campaign has caught the eye of many, and started a buzz on Twitter and Facebook, which pleases Dr. Bechara Choucair, public health commissioner. “This is the general conversation we wanted to see,” he said.

There’s good news and bad when it comes to teen pregnancy in Chicago. A recent report shows that the incidence of it here decreased 33 percent between 1999-2009. Still, Chicago’s rate is 1

1/2 times higher than the national average.

Data show the negative impact teen pregnancy can have, according to Choucair. Only 50 percent of those mothers finish high school, and a mere 2 percent graduate college by age 30. Their daughters are three times more likely to be teen moms themselves. And even worse, their sons are two times more likely to end up in prison.

With all that is an economic toll, so it’s not only the young women who face consequences. Teen pregnancy “impacts boys, it impacts parents, it impacts communities,” said Choucair.

Other components of the campaign include a website (BeYouBeHealthy.org), a blog (sexedloop.com), passing out a pamphlet that discusses contraception, and distributing condoms.

My hope is that teen boys see those Unexpected billboards and think: The chance that unprotected sex could result in my kids living in poverty with a too-young mom overwhelmed at caring for them? Not unexpected at all.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.