Telling Teen Moms They’re Wrong Isn’t ‘Insulting’

NYC teen pregnancy subway ads

When I first wrote about the New York City subway ads focused on preventing teen pregnancy, I was struck by the fact that they’d used small children to scare teens straight. I expected some ruffled feathers. But not like this.

Have you heard that the ads, which use statistics about what happens to the children of teen parents, are insulting to young mothers?

According to the folks at Jezebel, one ad in particular — which states, “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen” — is “terrible” because it is basically a “middle finger” to teen moms who are doing it right.

The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice has even launched a “No Stigma! No Shame” campaign to have the ads torn down.

I know as well as the next critical thinker that statistics do not account for every person on the planet, and those about teen parenthood are just as likely to paint the good eggs with the same broad brush as the bad as any others. Just watch Teen Mom. Kailyn Lowry and Jenelle Evans may be on the same TV show, but they’re on two different planets.

But I’m having a hard time with this desperate attempt to whitewash the problem that is teen pregnancy.

Is the real answer to coddle our teen moms? Now who’s being insulting?

Fact: ads like the one Jezebel’s writer calls a “middle finger” are telling a truth about a real problem in America.

The children of teen mothers are put at a disadvantage. Consider the following:

  • The daughters of teen mothers are 22 percent more likely than their peers to become teen mothers. 
  • Sons of teenaged mothers have a 13 percent greater chance of ending up in prison as compared to their peers. 

Do we really want to celebrate that? De-stigmatize it?

These are facts, supported by the numbers. It’s no more insulting to teen moms to mention these statistics than it is anti-Semitic to mention that Ashkenazi Jews have a higher prevalence of breast cancer.

Think about it. Each is the truth.

Facts don’t lie.

But people do. People who are caught up in a world where political correctness has gone awry find themselves trying to make excuses for people rather than face up to the notion that people are not perfect, that situations could be better.

Is it tough out there for the “good” teen moms? Of course. And you better believe they know it. They don’t need a subway ad to tell them that their lives have changed irrevocably or that their children’s lives hang in the balance. Ask your average teen mom if she had it to do all over again, and she’d tell you that she’d wait to get pregnant.

These mothers aren’t worried about being insulted by facts. They’re worried about how to juggle high school and a screaming baby. They’re worried about being good moms. They’re worried that their little sisters will end up making the same mistakes they’ve made.

They WANT their little sisters to be scared of getting pregnant. They WANT their daughters to use birth control. They want what we all want out of these NYC subway ads — to see more teen pregnancies prevented, to save more teens’ childhoods, to prevent those little boys from growing up to be criminals, those girls from growing up too fast.

As a mother of a daughter, the idea of de-stigmatizing teen pregnancy terrifies me. That stigma is there for a reason. Because being a teen mom sucks.

Just ask someone like Kailyn Lowry — a “good mom” who is on TV because she wants the rest of the world to know she’s come into motherhood the hard way. And she sure as heck doesn’t want her son to be a teen dad.

We need to let teen moms and their voices be heard loud and clear: this is NOT the optimal path. This is not the best thing for our children.

So how about we stop insulting teen moms with the notion that they can’t handle the truth and start listening to them? They don’t need your pity.

They need you to get real and start advocating for better access to birth control and the end of abstinence-only education in American classrooms. Help them make a better future for their kids.

What do you make of the ads? Do you think they’re “insulting” teen moms?

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