NYC Teen Pregnancy PSAs: Business as Usual?

5 Mar

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 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.


6 Responses to “NYC Teen Pregnancy PSAs: Business as Usual?”

  1. S.L March 5, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    I clicked the link and I actually liked several of the posters. Some of them were pretty stupid (pregnant guys and the one word ones ‘reject’ ‘nobody’ etc), but most of them were well put (I’m talking about the first 4 aimed at fathers and the ones stating statistics). The “scratch and sniff” one was funny.

    • Gretchen March 5, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

      The problem with those ads you mention (the ones aimed at fathers, as well as the diaper one), is that they focus on telling young people how miserable life as a teen parent will be — as if young parents aren’t allowed to feel joy, be resilient, have high hopes for their own future and their child’s. Yes, ALL parenthood has its less than glamorous aspects. But we don’t say to women in their late 20s and 30s, “Don’t have a baby! You’ll have to change diapers! Gross!” Do we really think young women don’t know that a baby comes with dirty diapers and spit up and sleepless nights? These ads make young parenthood something fundamentally different, and fundamentally worse, from older parenthood. And that’s why they’re stigmatizing.

  2. S.L March 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    “is that they focus on telling young people how miserable life as a teen parent will be”

    I believe that’s the point of a deterrent – showing its not all roses.

    From the attitudes I’ve seen from some teens who think a baby is no big deal, I’d have to say yes, they are naive about what it entails.


  1. Prison Culture » The Color of Moral Panic is Black: “Casual Cruelty” and Black Babies… - March 5, 2013

    […] Abortion Gang [This was written in haste and I have a ton to do today. I felt that I had to write this post as an ally to black girls and young women who are consistently maligned, insulted, assaulted, pathologized and oppressed. Many of the young women who I have and currently work with and love are "teen mothers." I want them to know that I have their back. I am sure that I will return to this topic again soon. For now, here's what I have to say.] […]

  2. Gretchen Sisson - July 7, 2013

    […] Stop the Stigma: Recognizing all reproductive choices as equal […]

  3. Gretchen Sisson - July 7, 2013

    […] Stop the Stigma: Recognizing reproductive choices as equal […]

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