By Leonora Desar
At a New York City bus stop, an ad of a child with tear-streaked cheeks catches the eye. "I'm twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen," says the ad. At another bus stop hangs a similar ad, this one featuring a wide-eyed little girl, with the caption: "Honestly mom….chances are he won't stay with you. What happens to me?"
These ads are part of a controversial new anti-teen pregnancy campaign by the New York City Human Resources Administration. The campaign is under fire by critics who argue that the ads shame and stigmatize teen moms.
"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," said Haydee Morales, the Vice President of Education and Training at Planned Parenthood of New York City, in a news release. "The City's money would be better spent helping teens access health care, birth control, and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education, not on an ad campaign intended to create shock value."
The city says the campaign demonstrates "the negative consequences of having a child before you are ready," reports TODAY. According to the city, there are more than 20,000 teen pregnancies a year, most of which are unplanned, in spite of the 27 percent drop in the teen pregnancy rate over the last decade.
"We want to make it clear to teenagers that there are significant responsibilities and burdens and consequences that come with parenthood and teenagers need to hear strong messages," Robert Doar, commissioner of the city's Human Resource Administration, told TODAY.
Jessica Pika, a spokesperson for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, said that it's difficult to gauge whether the ads will be effective. "It's such a complicated question that I hesitate to just say 'Oh, they're terrible,' or 'Oh, they're amazing,' Pika told Parenting.com. "The point obviously that Bloomberg and the Department of Health was trying to make was that teen pregnancy has a lot of social issues attached to it. And I think they were trying to call a lot of attention to it, and maybe they've chosen a pretty inflammatory way of doing it."
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