In which I agree with Planned Parenthood!

Planned Parenthood is unhappy with these New York City-sponsored ads.

Planned Parenthood officials called it a scare campaign that shames teen parents and promotes gender stereotypes.

“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, vice president of education and training at Planned Parenthood of New York City.

What would those “alternative aspirations” be, exactly? “Keep having teen sex, just make sure you have an abortion if you get ‘punished with a baby’?”

“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.”

I’m not sure how one “intends to create shock value,” perhaps that’s just bad grammar, but the city argues that it has spent tons of money on “teen access to health care, birth control and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education” and has been spending it for years. Meanwhile, in New York City 40% of all pregnancies end in abortion and in minority neighborhood that climbs to 60%, so obviously all of that free birth control and sex ed has contributed to Planned Parenthood’s coffers.

The reproductive rights group praised those efforts to expand access to birth control – but said the city has gone off track with the latest campaign, which also features “choose your own adventure” style text messages sent to teens who sign up.

“Teenage parenthood is simply not the disastrous and life-compromising event these ads portray. It’s time we focus on the root causes rather than point fingers at teen parents and their children,” Morales said.

There is a huge irony here, isn’t there? On one hand, PP says “more access, more education, more birthcontrol” (and of course broad-access to abortion) are necessary; in the next breath they say “teen parenthood is not a life-compromising event!”

I completely disagree with Planned Parenthood. The “root-causes” have amply been addressed for several decades.

But I do agree with then in this respect: these ads stink. Why wouldn’t a pregnant teen reading them think, “boy, that sounds pretty bad; I’d better have an abortion!”

Planned Parenthood is right that “shame” and “stigma” should not be attached to teen pregnancy; as long as they are, abortions will always be an “alternative aspiration” to some.

They’re wrong, though, with regards to the ads: I don’t see them “shaming” and stigmatizing teen parents, but as sounding a wake-up call to teens that sex has procreative consequences.

But whether that wake-up call will result in teens having less sex, which appears to be PP’s worry, or will result in even more abortions — which is my worry — we will not know for a while.

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • Peggy M

    i cannot get into the heads of people who would think abortion is an “alternative aspiration” for pregnant teenagers. Aspiration? I just read an article on Crystal Kelley, the surrogate mother who refused to abort her disabled baby (although she haggled over the price for a bit, and would have done it if the baby purchasers had offered an additional $5,000…). It is crazy sick. The comments are even more dispiriting because so many people think the issue is simply the money and/or the contractual agreement. You’d think they were discussing problems with a kitchen remodel or something. there is a world of people out there—our neighbors—who have no consciences any more.

  • leelu

    I think that the ads are pretty good and should continue. I think there are two groups of girls who will be most affected by them. The first is the group who may be (or thinking about becoming) sexually active. The ads might give them pause to consider waiting, or availing themselves to effective contraception. Yes, I know that’s a whole different conversation, but let’s posit it as a better alternative to non-Catholics than adolescent motherhood or abortion. Point being that they take effective steps to not become pregnant.

    The second group is, of course, already expectant teen mothers. Given our less than stellar regard for the sanctity and value of human life, the ads could tip someone on the fence to an abortion. I think the benefit of getting girls (and boys) to consider the serious and life-altering consequences of pregnancy is important enough to outweigh the risk of pushing undecideds off the fence onto the wrong side. My hope is that more abortions will be prevented than will be encouraged. I could be wrong.

    Peggy M – I just read that article today. What struck me the hardest, by horrifying me the most was the passage where the “mother” was trying to decide which type of abortion would be better. The phrase that did it was, “the pregnancy” would be sucked out”. Not “the fetus”, certainly not “the baby”, but “the pregnancy”. The fall from caring about a future human being, and baby in a womb, to not even speaking of that baby as anything alive and growing, but rather as an abstract idea of “the pregnancy”, is horrifically incalculable.

    If we define “zombie” as a creature walking about without a true spark of life, there are, it seems, many among us.

  • Mary

    leelu has a point. The tragic thing is that destigmatizing teen parenthood can increase teen abortions, by having the girl think that well, she can always have the baby before conceiving the child.

    Just as things which make abortion harder can also decrease live births. Parental consent laws with teeth, for instance — even though they are teens, the thought that they can’t escape makes them think.