On March 4, the New York City Human Resources Administration launched bus and subway campaigns that targeted teenage pregnancy.
According to the city’s website, the campaign is designed to inform people of “the difficulties of teen pregnancy, and why it is better to wait until you are financially stable adults in a committed relationship to have children.”
The ads are being featured in subways and bus shelters throughout the city. Girls can also watch a YouTube public service announcement video and text “notnow” to 877 877 to receive “a message that will include information about weight gain or a boyfriend ignoring you,” according to CBS News.
“This campaign makes very clear to young people that there’s a lot at stake when it comes to deciding to raise a child,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a press release. “We’ve already seen important progress in our effort to help more teens delay pregnancy.”
The print ads placed on subways and at bus shelters show pictures of babies no more than 1 year old accompanied by text that reads, “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.”
Others show messages like, “Honestly mom … chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” and “Dad, you’ll be paying to support me for the next 20 years.”
A press release on the Planned Parenthood of New York City website states that the group believes these ads are “stigmatizing, fear-based messages that [have] proven ineffective in preventing teen pregnancies.”
They also said that the campaign ignores the racial, economic and social factors that contribute to teenage pregnancy.
“The latest New York City ad campaign creates stigma, hostility and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy and parenthood rather than offering alternative aspirations for young people,” said Haydee Morales, vice president of education and training at Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC)
“The City’s money would be better spent helping teens access health care, birth control, and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education, not on an ad campaign intended to create shock value,” said Morales.
On March 5, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) also stated in a press release that the ad campaign relies on harmful stereotypes and stigmatizes young mothers, especially Latinos.
“Myths, rather than realities, have too often guided the public discourse about young Latinas and pregnancy. The administration had an opportunity to correct these myths and instead reinforced them,” stated Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of NLIRH.
Both PPNYC and the NLIRH believe there are better ways to prevent teenage pregnancy. “I would welcome a conversation with the administration about how they can do better for New York City teens,” stated Gonzalez-Rojas.
“Teenage parenthood is simply not the disastrous and life-compromising event these ads portray,” stated Morales on the PPNYC website. “It’s time we focus on the root causes rather than point fingers at teen parents and their children.”
Recent Department of Health and Mental Hygiene data reveals that the city’s teen pregnancy rate fell 27 percent in the last decade.
There are still more than 20,000 teen pregnancies annually, 87 percent of which are unintended and mostly involve unmarried partners.