Dubious Ads About Teen Pregnancy

See the ad to the right? Is this really the best, most effective use of $400,000?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spearheaded new Teen Pregnancy Prevention ad campaign, obviously thinks so. The ads being displayed on subways and bus shelters around the city feature distressed children and captions such as, “Honestly Mom… Chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” and “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.” The ads provide a number that teens can text to learn “the real price of pregnancy.” It leads them to a “game” that’s really a series of questions they’re prompted to answer, like, “My girlfriend is pregnant, but prom is coming up. Should I stay with her or go to the prom?” The queries get increasingly difficult: “Should I get a job, or focus on my future?” The player must pick. If he tries to text “Both,” the game will indicate that the character’s driver license was suspended for not paying child support.

Yes, teen pregnancy is a big problem. Children born to teen parents who have not completed high school are 9 times more likely to grow up in poverty, and eight out of ten teenage fathers don’t marry the mother of their child. These statistics alone should be enough to scare any teen straight. But what good do these ads do for teens who are already pregnant? Planned Parenthood has denounced the city’s campaign, stating that it “uses the images of toddlers to deliver messages that perpetuate gender stereotypes and presents stigmatizing, fear-based messages that have been proven to be ineffective in preventing teen pregnancies. Further, the ads themselves and their suggested text messages do not provide information about access to health care or affordable and effective birth control options, which are proven strategies for addressing teen pregnancy. “

The teenage years are among the most confusing and challenging for most people. At a time when these kids are still so vulnerable and impressionable, forcing pregnant teens to see ads telling them that their kids’ future is doomed—and their relationship is destined to fail—serves no purpose. Although these ads may prevent some teens from becoming pregnant, those that are already parents (or expecting) need support and encouragement that things can still work out and their dreams are not dead.

Do you feel that Bloomberg’s fear tactic hit or missed the mark? Leave a comment below.

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  1. by Em

    On March 17, 2013 at 2:17 am

    I never agree with Planned Parenthood about anything except this. Teens who are already pregnant should not have to feel punished and depressed/hopeless/doomed every day. Not all teen parents are bad parents. I think that these are just going to make people who are already teen parents be looked down upon even more and it is increasing the viewpoint/stereotypes which we should trying to be fixing.

  2. by Missguided Mama

    On March 19, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Preeeetty horrifying. Shouldn’t we be supporting our teen moms…after all, they’ve got it hard enough

  3. by Liz

    On March 19, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Wow. I understand wanting to deter teen pregnancy, but way to make existing teen mothers feel like garbage…

  4. by TM

    On March 20, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Everyone calm down. You can’t go about only protecting the feelings of already pregnant teen mothers at the expense of not potentially preventing more teen pregnancies. The statistics don’t lie – fewer last relationships, higher STD rates, less education, lower paying jobs….teens need to know this before engaging in unprotected sex or having sex at all. It’s a provocative ad, and that’s what catches our teens’ eyes. Planned Parenthood needs to get over it.