NYC Ad Campaign Uses Fear and Shame to Deter Teen Pregnancy
The ads feature racially diverse children with sad expressions on their faces. They are coupled with statements 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.”
New York has already seen a 27 percent drop in teen pregnancies over the past ten years. Many find these ads problematic on multiple levels.
“[These ads] are problematic to young women of color and young mothers of color,” says Jasmine Burnett, the lead organizer for NYC for Reproductive Justice, a volunteer network of reproductive justice groups in the city. “It’s like you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you have your child, you’re shamed and seen as an irresponsible decision-maker. If you choose not to have your child and have an abortion instead, you’re shamed for that, too.”
Haydee Morales, vice president of education and training at Planned Parenthood of New York, is troubled by the tone and the underlying assumption of the campaign. “Fear-based messages just don’t work in teen pregnancy prevention strategies,” she says. “[And these] ads are saying—falsely—that teen pregnancy is going to make you poor and keep you poor, but we know that poverty keeps you poor.
Proponents of these ads argue these ads are about personal responsibility, and that teens need to be made fully aware of the consequences of their actions.
“We know that teens can be impulsive, and some impulsive behaviors can have greater consequences than others,” Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs says in the same release. “Unprotected sex, which can lead to teen pregnancy, is one of those behaviors and this campaign is designed to help teens think through the real-life costs of teen pregnancy and guide them toward healthier decisions.”
Human Resources Agency Director Robert Doar adds, “We cannot dictate how people live their lives, and sometimes even the best plans don’t work out, but we must encourage responsibility and send the right message, especially to young people.”
What do you think of these ads?
Can a fear-based campaign effectively deter teen pregnancy?
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