Birth Control Billboard War

Tuesday, November 14th 2006, 10:32 am

By: News On 6

Their messages are short, simple, and completely opposed to one another.

Planned Parenthood was first with billboards that say "Birth Control is Easy." Then the local Catholic Diocese responded with its billboards that say "Birth Control is Harmful."

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg has more.

The billboards got our attention because, outside of politics, you don't see a lot of billboard wars. And we thought people might want to know more about them.

The signs are meant to get attention, and they got the attention of the Catholic Church.

"Because whereas birth control might be easy. It may not be in one's best interest. It may not be a good thing," said Erick Bell with the church’s Family Life Office.

Bell says their own billboards are meant to inform people of, among other things, some of the medical side effects of birth control that they don't think get enough attention.

"A woman is at increased risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer, an increased risk of heart attack and high blood pressure," Bell said. "All of these are well documented side effects of birth control pills."

But Planned Parenthood's Tom Chesbro says those side effects are rare, and while the means might be different, he says their goals are the same as the church's. "And that is to reduce unintended pregnancies, reduce abortions in this country, and keep people out of poverty."

Chesbro says they encourage abstinence too, but he says they have to address what happens when a teen refuses abstinence. "We have to look at the reality of what's going on out there and have all of those things available for young people."

Bell said the church is concerned about the societal effects of birth control too, saying teen promiscuity and divorce rates have gone up since it became more common.

Chesbro meanwhile says if abstinence and birth control fail, you see higher dropout, poverty, child abuse, and crime rates from unwanted pregnancies.

If nothing else, the billboards get people talking. "Obviously we're raising some discussion about this in the community, and I think that's a good thing," Chesbro said.

Both billboards have a phone number on them for more information, and both groups say they're getting lots of calls.

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