An Update on NYCHRA's Teen Mom Shaming

Many things have happened since the release of New York City’s Human Resources Association controversial anti -teenage pregnancy ads. These ads which use toddlers that appear distressed simply because their parents had them in their teens have caught the eye of the nation and opposition is strong. In addition to the shame and blame driven ads there is a text messaging game in which Ayana or Raphael will tell about how horrible, lonely, and poor they are going to be for the rest of their life. However, the text do not include information on how to actively avoid unsafe sex or teenage pregnancy. 

A spokeswoman from Mayor Bloomberg’s office stated, “It is well past time when anyone can afford to be value neutral when it comes to teen pregnancy…” 

However, advocate groups, activist, organizations, politicians, and teen parents are all outraged and say these ads are a huge step back for the Bloomberg administration that has been making progressive strides in birth control availability in schools. 

After days of strong public opposition, a pretty tense exchange of words between Planned Parenthood and the Bloomberg administration the text messages now have included a small snippet about birth control in their text messaging game. 

I myself have written a response to the ads in which I state that the city has yet to teach comprehensive sex education which was mandated by Chancellor Walcott in 2011. Furthermore, these ads are blaming teenage parents for the lack responsibility that NYC officials should be taking to maintain the 27% decline in teenage pregnancy in the city by providing comprehensive sex education to all youth in public schools. 

Today NYC 4RJ - an independent network of activists advancing the human rights of women and girls of color in New York-has released a counter campaign to the cities ads with a statement letter that list the demands they have forNYCHRA and mayor Bloomberg’s office.

Below is the letter.

Dear Community,

The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice (NYC4RJ) condemns the New York City Human Resource Administration’s (HRA) use of images and messaging that attacks young people and their families. This campaign, “Think Being a Teen Parent Won’t Cost You?” shames teen parents, especially teen parents of color, and uses images of their children to blame them for conditions that are society’s responsibility to address.

The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice is a coalition of grassroots activists in New York City, working to advance the human rights of women and girls of color and LGBTQ people of color through our advocacy priority areas ofEducation, Health and Families. 

We fail as a society when we shame young people instead of teaching them what they need to know to make the best decisions about their lives. For those of us who do direct service, education and advocacy around issues of poverty, access to comprehensive sex education, contraception, family planning and addressing health disparities that have historically impacted communities of color, we are acutely aware of the budget cuts to programs and services that could address and reverse these conditions within our communities. The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice is holding HRA accountable for reinforcing negative stereotypes about the decision-making ability of young people instead of investing in programs and policies that encourage young people to thrive.

In response to this HRA campaign, the New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice asserts, teen parents need support, not shame! We are launching the NO STIGMA! NO SHAME! Campaign with the following demands:

- Public acknowledgement and apology from HRA

- Removal of all HRA campaign posters

- A meeting between the HRA and NYC4RJ leaders

- Creation of a Teen Parent Council within HRA, composed of teen parents and their advocates, to approve any future messaging around teen pregnancy prevention

In order to address teen pregnancy, the HRA and all New York City government programs must offer teen parents support, not stigmatizing messages. “In August, according to the Department Of Education’s Sex Education website, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that beginning in the second semester of the 2011-2012 school year, New York City will require schools to include sexual health education as part of comprehensive health education.” Teen parents need government officials to provide resources that encourage them to foster resilience instead of shaming them for creating their own families.

The New York City Coalition for Reproductive Justice calls on the HRA to dismantle this reprehensible campaign and address the real problem: lack of support for teen parents and their families.

Signed,

The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice

Jasmine Burnett – Founder & Lead Organizer

Nicole Clark, MSW – No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign Leader

Being that the campaign has slowly began to change the text messages I am hoping that they are willing to understand that everyone wants to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy in the city and the country but the way in which they are trying to do it is a waste of $400,000 and only further advertises that the city is out of touch when it comes to it’s youth. 

You can learn more about and follow the counter campaign at on Twitter at #NOStigmaNoShame

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