New Billboards, Same Stigma for Young Women of Color

"If you have your child, you're shamed and seen as an irresponsible decision-maker. If you choose not to have your child and have an abortion instead, you're shamed for that, too," a reproductive-justice advocate says about a new campaign aimed at preventing teen motherhood. Jamilah King takes on the messaging in a piece for Colorlines. 

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Human Resources Administration

"If you have your child, you're shamed and seen as an irresponsible decision-maker. If you choose not to have your child and have an abortion instead, you're shamed for that, too," a reproductive-justice advocate says about a new campaign aimed at preventing teen motherhood. Jamilah King takes on the messaging in a piece for Colorlines.

A 27 percent drop in teen pregnancy rates over the past decade apparently isn't good enough for politicians in New York City.

This week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office announced the launch of a new ad campaign aimed at making adolescents understand what it calls the "real cost of teen pregnancy."

The advertisements, which will run on subways, buses, and social media platforms, feature a multiracial cast of babies in various states of distress accompanied by text that explains how hard their lives will be because of their parents' ages. One image of a dark skinned little girl includes the message, "Honestly mom ... chances are he won't stay with you. What happens to me?" Another features a crying toddler with curly blond hair telling the world, "I'm twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen."

Citing millennial attitudes about teen pregnancy and racial undertones of the ads, critics question the approach.

"[These ads] are problematic to young women of color and young mothers of color," says Jasmine Burnett, the lead organizer for NYC for Reproductive Justice, a volunteer network of reproductive justice groups in the city. "It's like you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. If you have your child, you're shamed and seen as an irresponsible decision-maker. If you choose not to have your child and have an abortion instead, you're shamed for that, too."

Read Jamilah King's entire piece at Colorlines.

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