New York City is following up on its controversial (yet effective) program of reducing teen pregnancy by distributing birth control to high school students with a more traditional ad campaign. Ads like the one at left will appear in subway and bus shelters tomorrow, a YouTube video series will debut later this month, and a texting program promises to engage teenagers with games and facts. “We cannot dictate how people live their lives, and sometimes even the best plans don’t work out," Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar says in a release. "But we must encourage responsibility and send the right message, especially to young people.”
Though it's easy for the tabloids to find parents who are outraged about the city's CATCH program, which distributes birth control and morning-after pills to 40 school-based heath centers, the teen pregnancy rate in the city has dropped by 27% over the last decade. “Two things are happening here— teens are using more contraceptives, and they’re also delaying sexual activity,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said last month after it was learned that doses of Plan B distributed to teenagers doubled in 2011-2012 compared with the previous two years.
Despite the advances that have been made, according to a representative for a teen pregnancy awareness campaign at the Morris Heights Health Center, “The Bronx still has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.”
The crying children in the subway ads (who will one day grow up to sue the city over the use of their likeness) and the texting game (which plays like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, except with teen pregnancy) are designed to simply remind teenagers of the stakes: according to the release, 50% of teenagers have never considered how a pregnancy would affect their lives.
“This campaign makes very clear to young people that there’s a lot at stake when it comes to deciding to raise a child,” Mayor Bloomberg says in the release. “We aim to build on our success by asking teens to take an honest look at some of the realities of parenthood they may not have considered."