HEALTH AND Family Services Minister Nelson Bascome was right on target last week about teen pregnancies. The education of adults and of males is an important part of reducing the number of young women who end up as accidental moms.

We have made much progress on this front. The term illegitimate with all its stigmas and connotations has disappeared from the public discussion.

This is good. School-aged teen mothers are shepherded through their high school education by Teen Services. This is very good. A teen mother is sharing her experience with other vulnerable teenagers. This is great!

I admire teen mom-to-be Ms. Dana Brown. It takes courage and heart to take this kind of story to the public. Too often, accidental mothers put on a defensive front and deny or downplay the mistake, flaunt their womanhood status and, advertently or not, lure others into the trap. Ms. Brownâs willingness to tell her story may help dispel the glamour and the naivetŽ.

Becoming a mom while a teenager is not much fun and, as Ms. Brownâs case shows, can happen even to the careful.

With all good intentions, we have been advocating that teenagers practice abstinence. This isnât a bad idea but it isnât an effective one ÷and cannot be depended upon. All the messages our teens and young adults are getting from cheap novels; TV soap operas and sitcoms; adverts for shampoo, tobacco and cars; celebrity role models and so on are promoting, insinuating, enticing, anticipating and almost performing sex. In addition, the biological imperative to reproduce is kicking in and teenage hormones are raging.

And then there is the unfortunate aspect of self image. Some teens and young adults, male and female, have so little sense of themselves and their future that making or having a baby is virtually the only avenue open to show their worth. Theirs is not an informed decision, and their offspring are more likely than not to follow their path.

Abstinence message

Against these forces, an abstinence message on its own has little chance of success.

I think we need a few male voices to compliment the message being delivered by Ms. Brown. It may be difficult to find a real-life counterpart, but here is where our advertising copywriters could perform a significant public service by crafting some creative dialogue for radio/TV ads ÷ words in the mouths of teenaged males advocating responsible standards for ãbeing a man.ä I imagine such a campaign would garner the support of local sports figures, entertainers and others who would be willing to offer themselves as role models.

I think some young Bermudian males are trapped in the image of themselves as cool, savvy, virile, strong. They seem often incapable of acknowledging

ignorance, doubt, regret; yet it is these qualities which, once accepted, lead to the learning that produces real savvy, real strength. You may have seen, as I did, the young local cockerels interviewed on the TV news some weeks ago who expressed their alienation as much in manner as in words.

They seemed desperate to prove something ÷ prove themselves. I cannot imagine them being swayed by a message of abstinence.

But these young men, and others like them, are the ones we must reach if teen pregnancy is to be reduced. A message which uses their own language and images of their own idols has the best chance of getting through.