Vogel: Stigmatize pregnant teens? That's the point!
Some years ago, I taught sixth grade in East New York. One of my best students was a smart, personable girl named Lisa. I was certain she had a bright future ahead.
A couple years later, I had Lisa's brother in my class and asked what she was up to. He told me she'd gotten pregnant and dropped out of school.
That's why I have little patience for criticisms about the city's latest effort to curb teen pregnancy.
By now you've seen the ads on the subway walls and bus stations directed at girls like Lisa: Kids of teen moms are twice as likely to drop out of school. Children cost thousands of dollars a year to raise, and a guy who impregnates you is unlikely to stay with you.
These are the facts of life. Why are these ads making people angry?
Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma complained that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city are stigmatizing teen pregnancy. You're right, councilwoman. That's the point.
The campaign isn't aimed at those who've already become young unwed mothers. They're targeted to teenage girls who haven't, who are being pressured by their boyfriends to have unprotected sex and aren't considering their futures.
Shouldn't these girls think about what they're getting into before it's too late?
Years ago, many complained when Mayor David Dinkens began a program distributing condoms in high schools. Later, Bloomberg extended it by handing out Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, in select schools.
The data show that teen pregnancy rates drop when contraception is made available to teens, and city officials hope this new initiative shows similar results.
That would be a good thing, wouldn't it?
Yet the protests about the ads often come from unexpected quarters. "Teenage parenthood is simply not the disastrous and life-compromising event these ads portray," Haydee Morales, vice president of Planned Parenthood of New York City, said.
Really? Getting pregnant at 14 isn't a life-compromising event? On what planet?
I have no idea if the ads will work. Are they too judgmental? Maybe. Many say a prime reason teenagers have babies is to try to get some love in their lives, which is touching and sad. But these teens too often wind up uneducated, poor and isolated. And that's even sadder.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.