I have been pleasantly surprised by the dismay generated by New York Human Resources Administration’s new campaign, which sloppily attempts to “prevent teen pregnancy” by shaming young mothers and inaccurately touting adverse outcomes for young parents and their children.
The blogosphere has erupted against this campaign, with some of my favorite responses from Miriam Perez (who was actually brave enough to try the texting services accompanying the ads), Brittany at Advocates for Youth (who accurately stresses that communities with high birth rates need support, not shame), and my friend Natasha Vianna (whose post on ThePushBack.org is so excellent you should definitely to read it):
It’s this very concept of shaming teen moms that drives us into a deeper hole of isolation. I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was a teen mom, I didn’t want to ask for help, I refused to apply for any aid, and I put myself in unhealthy situations so I wouldn’t have to face the judgment of others. It was horrible. Yet, no one ever bothered to talk to me about the occurences in my life that led up to my pregnancy. Or what my life was like before becoming a pregnant teen. No one knew that I was already depressed in high school. No one knew that I already faced many of the adversities that teen moms face too. My life may have been exactly the same if I hadn’t become a teen mom but no one cared to look at me until there was a baby involved (that no one really cared about either).
If you are genuinely interested in seeing teen pregnancy rates decrease, encourage your school, city and state to provide comprehensive sexual education, increase access to birth control and emergency contraception, provide youth with honest (non-bias) answers when they have questions, and be the support teens need… THEN you will see your numbers decrease. Until then, good luck to NYC with this horrible ad.
But public service announcements like these aren’t new — hence my surprise at the outrage here. Problematic messages like these have been around for a long time, and young parent bloggers like Natasha and PRYMFace (Promoting Respect for Young Mothers) have been writing about them for a while.
I decided to bring all of these advertisements together, in one place, to drive home the point that, while the new NYC ads are terrible, they aren’t out of the ordinary. Take a look at these posters. As reproductive justice activists, we should not tolerate young parents being subjected to these narratives, especially in their own communities. Our response should not be limited to this new campaign, but the narratives that surround young people and their reproductive choices more broadly. Let this outcry be a way for us to begin doing something better.