Teen pregnancy ad This is one of the posters in the city's new ad campaign alerting New Yorkers to the risks of teen parenthood. (Human Resources Administration)

A controversial anti-teen-pregnancy campaign from the Bloomberg administration has been met with criticism from advocacy organizations who claim the ads are stigmatizing, hurtful, and are reinforcing harmful stereotypes.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health condemned the campaign for its lack of "medically accurate, culturally appropriate or socially relevant information," and Haydee Morales, the vice president of education and training at Planned Parenthood of New York City, implied that the campaign was a misuse of city money, and intended only for "shock value."

"The city's money would be better spent helping teens access health care, birth control and high-quality sexual education," Morales insisted.

 

NLIRH executive director Jessica González-Rojas emphasized the need for increased access to contraception, asserting that structural barriers – from immigration status and language to poverty and discrimination — keep many young Latinas from being able to obtain contraception, and are thus the causes of higher rates of unintended teen pregnancy.

Morales also criticized the administration for "blaming young people for the outcomes of poverty, violence, limited access to healthcare and unequal educational opportunities, as well as gender, racial, and ethnic inequalities."

"Young people and their families need medically accurate, culturally appropriate and socially relevant information to make healthy and informed decisions... and they need increased access to contraception,"González-Rojas insisted.

González-Rojas also criticized the text-messaging component of the campaign, which reportedly generates responsed like "My BFF called me a 'fat loser' at prom" and "First my parents diss me, now my BFF. She has stopped calling me."

She scolded the administration for "painting teen parents as failures" and added, "I would welcome a conversation with the Administration about how their can do better for NYC teens."

Samantha Levine at the mayor's office said, "This campaign is part of the City's comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention program, which includes sex education, increased access to birth control and partnerships with community-based organizations."

According to the mayor's office, there are more than 20,000 teen pregnancies annually in New York City, and 87 percent are unintended.

As of September 2011, comprehensive sex education — as opposed to abstinence-only — is mandated in city public schools, a move that is part of the Young Men's Initiative. The city also launched the CUNY Fatherhood Academy through the Young Men's Initiative, which prepares young fathers to apply to, enroll in, and graduate from college.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat

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