The Bloomberg administration's new ad campaign targeting teen pregnancy features crying, forlorn children implying to teenage mothers that the fathers of their children will leave them, along with other warnings that having kids would resign them to a life of poverty. “The latest NYC ad campaign creates stigma, hostility and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy and parenthood rather than offering alternative aspirations for young people,” Planned Parenthood's vice president of education and training, Haydee Morales, says in a statement. “The City’s money would be better spent helping teens access health care, birth control and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education, not an ad campaign intended to create shock value."
Planned Parenthood acknowledges the "impressive progress" the city has made by reducing teen pregnancy by 27% in the last ten years, and notes that the organization supports the city's CATCH program, which distributes birth control and Plan B to teenagers through 40 school-based health centers. But the press release notes that by linking teen pregnancy to poverty, the ads are based on "a false premise...In fact many researchers have found that teen childbearing is an outcome of rather than a cause of the poor economic conditions faced by many teens in this city."
“Teenage parenthood is simply not the disastrous and life-compromising event these ads portray," Morales says. "It’s time we focus on the root causes rather than point fingers at teen parents and their children.”
Perhaps the biggest knock on the new initiative is the "interactive texting program." After being told that teenagers can find birth control resources by calling 311, the user is prompted to choose a female or a male character ("Anaya" or "Louis") and engage in a crude, bleak, choose-your-own-adventure style "game." The choices are binary and glib ("Should I save my money or go watch the Knicks game at the Garden?")
Samantha Levine, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office, defends the program. “It is well past time when anyone can afford to be value neutral when it comes to teen pregnancy," she said in a statement to the Daily News, adding:
We strongly disagree with Planned Parenthood when they write that ‘teenage parenthood is not disastrous and life-compromising.’ Considering the amount of time, effort and money they put into preventing teen parenthood we doubt they actually believe that themselves.”
The Daily News' editorial board supports the mayor:
The group prefers judgment-free, thought-free living in the moment to helping very young, single women understand the heartbreaking futures that may be in store for them after childbearing. Whatever will be will be as long as teens have sex ed, schooling in contraception and abortion, and good health care. Awful.