According to the nonprofit, teen births in Georgia have dropped by 71% since it was founded in 1995.
Jane Fonda is celebrating the 25th anniversary of her Georgia-based nonprofit organization that she set up with the aim of avoiding teenage pregnancies. The actress and political activist founded the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention in 1995 while living in Atlanta at a time when Georgia had the highest teenage birth rate in the country. According to the GCAPP website, teen births in Georgia have dropped by 71% since the founding of the nonprofit. Its programs are said to reach more than 60,000 young people every year, reports Associated Press.
"Twenty-five years ago, if we had gone into Grady County or White County or said we'd like to talk to you about teaching comprehensive sexuality in school, we would have been thrown out or arrested," Fonda told the network. "Counties that didn't want us to be there are now inviting us in, and that's very gratifying." The 82-year-old hosted the annual GCAPP "EmPower" party virtually on Thursday with Georgia native recording artist Trisha Yearwood. "I am actually going to Trisha's studio in person, and it's the first time I'll have left [home since the quarantine was enforced]. I'm going to do it and come right back," the actress told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week.
"I'm a big fan of Trisha’s, but I don't know her. She comes from the South and likes the fact that I did this organization 25 years ago, and I've stuck with it, and it's become the go-to organization in Georgia for issues concerning adolescents. She finds that very cool," Fonda added. Retired Major League Baseball right fielder Hank Aaron was slated to present the Lifetime Humanitarian Award to Fonda’s ex-husband, CNN founder Ted Turner, during the event while President Jimmy Carter was expected to deliver a message to attendees of the virtual celebration and fundraiser.
GCAPP changed its name to Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential in 2012 and expanded its mission beyond teenage pregnancy prevention to include nutrition and physical activity. "It's partly the fact that we were so successful in helping the rates to drop," Fonda said of the expansion. "But there were other things that needed to be addressed to help teenagers have healthy, productive lives — exercise, physical health, combatting obesity. I know personally through my own life how important it is to a young person to gain agency over their lives."
Speaking of her activism, which hasn't been diminished by the pandemic, Fonda said: "I'm going on 83 [years old], and I think this is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life." While she's gone on to achieve a lot since establishing GCAPP, the actress said that her devotion to the nonprofit remains undiminished. "This is the first organization I ever started on my own," she said. "When I decided in 1994 that I wanted to do it, I traveled all over Georgia. I know Georgia better than Ted (Turner) does, I'll tell you! I've been in counties in North Georgia, South Georgia, Middle Georgia. I wanted to see what was already being done on behalf of adolescents and their reproductive health. I'm grateful to GCAPP because it allowed me to know Georgia so well."
"If you put a map across the United States that showed pockets of poverty and distress, those would correspond with where our teen pregnancy rates are high," Fonda stated. "Kids who see no future for themselves, kids who grew up around adults who've tried and tried and not been able to get decent steady jobs, assume that that's going to be true for them and [think] what the heck, what's going to be compromised if they have a baby when they're young. Middle-class kids, they know what their futures are and they know that having a baby when they're young is going to compromise their future. So there's a motivation there. Hope is the best contraceptive. If you help a child see a future for themselves they will be motivated to either not have sex or to use contraceptives responsibly when they do."