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What Would a Decent Teen Pregnancy Prevention Campaign Look Like?

Written by Miriam Pérez forRH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post. It feels like every time I turn around, there's another offensive teen pregnancy or parenting ad campaign. The Candie's Foundation, which was created by Neil Cole of the apparel company Candie's that is popular with young girls, joined the fray with its own offensive ad campaign for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month in May.

Veronica Bayetti Flores at broke that one down nicely. Then an ad campaign was released by the Chicago Department of Public Health featuring alarmist photos of teenage boys with photoshopped baby bumps, like this one:

While campaigns like the one launched by the Candie's Foundation have celebrity endorsements that propel them, I'm always more disgusted to see campaigns like Chicago's, or the one in New York City earlier this year, where public funding has been used to make them happen—public dollars that could be used in many other ways that actually might have an impact on the lives of teenagers and parents of all ages. The Chicago campaign also has the strange side effect of being transphobic, accidentally depicting what could be a pregnant transgender man.

All of these campaigns have left me to wonder if there is a teen pregnancy prevention campaign I would support. Sadly, the crux of most of these campaigns, and especially the Candie's Foundation and New York City campaigns, isn't actually teen pregnancy prevention—they are teen parenting prevention campaigns, which I could never get behind. I would never support an initiative that shames and defames teen parents and spreads statistics that are taken out of context and claim teen parents, especially teen mothers, will never succeed. This response to the Candie's Foundation campaign illustrates how statistics commonly used to defend teen parenting prevention campaigns can be distorted:

(Via Fuck Yeah Teen Moms on Tumblr)

The only kind of prevention campaign I would support is an unwanted pregnancy prevention campaign. Because that is the only kind of pregnancy I think we should be trying to prevent. We shouldn't try and prevent people we think are too young, too old, or too irresponsible from conceiving. Every person has the right to parent when they see fit. Instead, we should be trying to get the correct tools and information into the hands of people who don't want to become pregnant, but who might not know how to prevent it. And the way to execute this kind of campaign isn't to discourage teens from pregnancy by telling them how horrible life will be once they have a child, but by telling them how not to get pregnant.

Among the many terrible things they promote, like stigma and shame for an already stigmatized group, these campaigns also seem to support the idea that teens get pregnant because they don't know how hard it will be to be a teen parent. I think that's absurd.


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