California first lady Gayle Wilson unveiled tough new TV ads Wednesday created to discourage pregnant women and new mothers from abusing illegal drugs and alcohol.
The two public service announcements, which will begin airing in about two weeks, are intended to shock pregnant women who are addicts or alcoholics into seeking help.
In one TV ad, a baby plays with drug paraphernalia while wishing aloud that its mother would stop using drugs. In a second ad, tears roll down the cheeks of a mother at her son's funeral. A voice-over says: "Weeping won't bring baby John back."
Wilson unveiled the ad campaign before women at Baby Step Inn, a Long Beach rehabilitation center that helps woman and their babies recover from drug addiction.
"Our goal is to reach out to these pregnant women and their families," Wilson said. "To try and get them into treatment that can save not only their lives, but the lives of their babies,"
The campaign--called "Your Kids Are What You Are"--is the first in California to target drug addiction during pregnancy, state officials said.
No one is sure how many pregnant women in California are endangering the health of their children with drugs and alcohol. But a 1993 study conducted by UC Berkeley's School of Public Health estimated that 69,000 infants out of 607,000 born in California during 1992 were delivered to mothers who tested positive for alcohol or drugs immediately before delivery.
State officials estimate that 12,000 women are enrolled in treatment programs statewide.
Patients and alumna of Baby Step Inn sat cross-legged on the floor with their toddlers for Wilson's presentation. Some mothers wiped away tears as a baby appeared on the screen, telling the audience that mommy used to put "bad things inside her."
In the second ad, a man gives a eulogy to baby John, who has died because of his mother's drug abuse. "From the day he was born and even before, this young man never had a chance," the man says. "We now know drugs weren't his choice; he was born that way."
Afterward, the women praised the ads.
Leslie Callihan said she found the Long Beach treatment center through a TV commercial advertising a telephone help line for women on drugs.
The new ads have a more shocking message, she said, which is a good idea.
"I think they would make you really think about what you were doing," she said. "Sometimes you need to be hit hard."
Irma Rueda, a former crack addict who has been drug-free for more than four years, said the ads really hit home. "The first time I saw them," she said, "I got the chills."
Rueda, 34, raised four children as an addict. She said that her older son would occasionally play with her syringes and other drug instruments, just as the child did in the commercial.
When Rueda learned she was pregnant with her fifth child, she sought treatment. She believes the ads will encourage others to do the same.
"To reach a person on drugs, [the ads] have to be aggressive," she said. "It's very hard to get to them when they're high."