It Takes A Village To Prevent Teen Pregnancy— Not A Poster Campaign

On behalf of Andrea Rothenberg

For the past 23 years I have been facilitating a comprehensive program for pregnant and parenting teens as well as pregnancy prevention programs for younger teens.  Although I have not “seen” the ads on the trains, I have seen pictures on the internet and am appalled by each of them.  Yes, I agree that using the voices of the children is what is supposed to get the sympathy of others, but I believe it is manipulative and stereotypical.

I am also familiar with negative campaigns to try to change various health behaviors.  As a health teacher many decades ago I showed black lungs to encourage kids not to smoke.  I remember the March of Dimes ads on the trains where shoeboxes held premature babies.  I just don’t get it.  I would hope that we could work to raise people’s health literacy, thus leading to behavior changes based on models such as stages of change and positive messages and support.

Check out the pictures below.

I want to be out with my friends.
Instead, I’m changing DIRTY diapers at home.
All it took was one PRICK to get my girlfriend pregnant.
At least that’s what her friends say.
Condoms are CHEAP. If we’d used one I wouldn’t
have to tell my parents I’m pregnant. 

This was part of a campaign in 2000 by the National Organization to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. I challenged the Executive Director on this many times, stating that I was concerned how it would affect those who chose to have children young. Although I do not believe that it is in the best interest of young people to have babies so early, if they do, they need our help and our support, not our criticism and disgust with their decisions. Outcomes for teen mothers vary greatly and maybe they would be better served if we focused our efforts on helping them and their children.

Regarding prevention, it’s going to take more than a poster to prevent a teen from having a baby. We need to get down to the real issues that promote teen pregnancy – a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and overall feeling that future options are minimal. This, along with poor neighborhoods, poverty, and a tremendous lack of positive programs and positive role models to surround our children. And don’t get me started on the state of “sex education” in the USA. It is really pregnancy and disease prevention, not a comprehensive sexuality education program that discusses sex and sexuality as normal and healthy parts of development. Choosing to have sex, at whatever age, comes with responsibilities not just consequences.

When are people going to get it??

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