Can New York Shame Teens Out of Getting Pregnant? [Reader Forum]

Are New York's controversial new ads to stop teen pregnancy racist? Colorlines readers sound off.

By Nia King Mar 11, 2013

Last week, **Jamilah King** reported on steps New York City is taking to reduce its teen pregnancy rates. The good news is they include comprehensive sex health education, onsite clinics in public schools, emergency contraceptives, oral birth control, pregnancy tests and confidential referrals. The bad news is they include [these shame-based PSAs]( Teen pregnancy is a touchy subject, and there is little agreement about the best way to prevent it: Abstinence-only education? Stressing the importance of safe sex? Unfortunately, though [trying to shame teens out of having babies hasn’t worked in the past](, history seems to be repeating itself. Here’s what you had to say. **Danielle Woods:** > > I got pregnant at 14, and gave birth shortly after 15. I worked part time and finished high school. I went to college for a few years. I’m now 26, my daughter is 11. I have NEVER been on welfare. I’m still not married, but I’ve managed to give my daughter a nice middle class life, in a safe neighborhood. The label that gets put on teen moms makes it even more difficult for them to parent their babies. > > What teen moms need is non-judgmental guidance. They are still children themselves. They need to still have a social life. Wrap around care and support from their family, school counselors and other adults will prevent them from neglecting their babies out of frustration and depression. Just as with any teen its important that they still attend school, and work part time, or even so extracurricular activities. This may seem ridiculous but I am a better mother now because my mother, grandmother, father and brothers all helped in taking care of my daughter. I’m financially better off, have a stronger work ethic AND more education then I would have if my family had not been supportive. > > What young girls need… are fathers. Fathers IN THE HOME. Young men need to be held accountable for rearing there children as well. Just paying child support IS NOT ENOUGH. And men who prey on teenage girls need to be punished more severely. > > Preventing teenage parenthood is more complex than just plastering PSA’S around town. The two "S’s" are the most important factors: Self-esteem & Sex-Ed. > > Having a child at 15 was the most psychologically traumatic experience of my life. That aspect never gets discussed. Girls need to know that you can’t take it back. Once a baby is born you are responsible to it forever & as you continue to grow into adulthood and make young, stupid mistakes, your baby has to go along for the ride as well. **Philip Green:** > I approve this ad. This ad is being segment marketed…it depicts Black, Caucasian, Hispanic babies for the target markets. It is about teen-age pregnancy, people, NOT about race. People are so quick to play the race card that it is obscuring the greater message. Damn, people. What should the ad say? Teen-age girls, continue to have babies because all races do it? Really? **reneegede5:** > Yeah right. The President of the United States of America was born to a teen mother, and so was the Democrat President before him. Y’all need to stop. You support anti-abortion activities, then turn around and tell pregnant teens NOT to have kids. What kind of stupid twisted backward foolishness is this? **BrothaJamesWolf** > Shaming and scaring teens and teen mothers will only do more harm than good, and the fact that, as far as these pictures go, it’s aimed at teens of color, you can not help but consider that it’s another ploy to blame POC for the problems in society as opposed to having the courage to examine the real causes themselves. **LavMenace:** > One thing that cannot be denied is that these posters are telling the truth. But what is more effective than these posters is to have young teen mothers tell teen girls who are considering having a baby, what it is really like to have a child so young. **Ann AT:** > Actually, what is more effective is to educate these teens on safe sex practice and contraception. Most teenage pregnancies are accidental. It’s not that these teens are looking to become parents at such an early age. Use the money spent on advertising these posters and billboards to [teach teens about the many ways a teenage girl can get pregnant]( and provide them with contraceptives would be a better idea. **notgramsci:** > What they need are examples of men and women who are glad they waited until marriage to become sexually active. Too many people are telling teens that chastity is not an option- the kids should be told the truth, so they can fulfill their potential without concerns about STDs, unwanted pregnancies, and other related problems. **parkwood1920:** > The whole campaign is condescending nonsense, but in my mind the "Honestly Mom…" and the "Dad, you’ll be paying…" posters are the absolute worst. Thanks for assuming that child care is solely the mother’s job, Human Resources Administration! No, no—that doesn’t send teens any horrible messages about gender at all! There is no reason fathers cannot provide direct child care, whether they are teens or not. **Trish Dziko:** > The reality is that child care is solely the mother’s job and that’s the point. We may not agree on this approach, but you cannot disagree with the facts. I’d like to see a campaign where they focus on boys and young men. **Bonnie Scott:** > As a person who works in teen pregnancy prevention, stuff like this makes me crazy. Over and over again, research shows that fear and shame doesn’t work to change behavior, so it’s an extra waste of funds that could go for responsible messaging campaigns that don’t make anyone feel shamed. We want politicians behind the movement for healthy teens, but the messaging has to be right for actually supporting healthy teens of all situations! **Phoenix Starr:** > My best friend had a daughter a week before her 15th birthday and yes she is an awesome mommy…but I also know of OTHER teen mothers AND fathers that wish they had waited. It’s not about shaming, it is about raising awareness… **Young Women United:** > Great piece, Colorlines! At [Young Women United]( we believe that people of all ages should have the education, information, and resources they need to make real decisions about their bodies and their lives. For too long we have seen the negative impact shame based pregnancy prevention models have on young parents and their families. We are organizing with young parents across New Mexico to push back on this kind of stigma and judgment- we are close to passing a New Mexico wide school excused absence policy for pregnant and parenting students. Young parents shouldn’t be pushed out of schools, instead they should have the right to balance their responsibilities as parents and as students. **Kathleen Nicole O’Neal:** > The truth is that teenage pregnancy is largely a problem because it carries such societal stigma and young parents have a hard time making this work in our current social system. In truth, it is probably healthier from a biological perspective to have a child at 18 than at 40. Teen pregnancy is in fact often accompanied by serious social problems but these things are more the real problem in itself than teenage pregnancy per se is. If someone wants to see teen parents and their children be healthy, happy, and successful, ads with messages like this should be the last thing anyone wants to encourage. However, if you want to shame young women (especially young women of color) for being sexually active, this is a great place to start. **Christina López:** > This shaming strategy is horrible and it scapegoats teen parents and their babies for the rising poverty crisis in the United States. The government should put more resources into helping people survive such as expanding educational programs, healthcare, and social services that are designed to improve the quality of life. What about full funding for reproductive healthcare – including abortion, 24-hour child care, full comprehensive sex education. A more educated community will result in less unwanted teen pregnancies. This is the richest country and the world and they should have the money to fund all this — but it is squandered on tax incentives for the rich and building up the military and prison industrial complex. > The sequester proposals to slash and burn social services, education, and healthcare will result in more poverty with children should not take the blame for this. **Boston Women’s Fund:** > The Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy have some great responses from teen parents at their [blog]( **Eme Nin:** > This is such an un-thoughtful way of addressing a serious issue. I began having children with my partner at 16 and had three by 23, the year I graduated college at USC in CA. In addition I have since received my masters degree and am a self-sufficient mother of four. I am a woman of color. My children (and one adult son who is 18) are well adjusted, educated, and strong individuals. Obviously the claims being made by the billboards are NOT all true, and are definitely not constructive. The problem is a systemic one that deserves a more research-based and sensitive approach. NYC will not only be ridiculing the hard work that young parents, in particular young women of color are doing, but more importantly they will be condoning idiocy as policy once again. ——— Each week, we round up the best comments in our community. Join the conversation here on, and on [Facebook]( and [Twitter](