Recently, there has been a great deal of media attention surrounding the New York City Human Resources Administration’s (HRA) latest Teen Pregnancy Prevention campaign that highlights the negative consequences of teen pregnancy. While I believe the intent was to encourage a thought process amongst teens around potential consequences and circumstances that can arise from teen pregnancy, I disagree with the manner in which the message is approached. The campaign features pictures of sad or crying babies with statements such as, “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen” and “Honestly Mom, chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?”
Not only are these statements offensive and insensitive, but the HRA is missing the mark by creating attention-grabbing ads, instead of educating those facing an unexpected pregnancy on the resources available to them so that they can make a decision that is best for them and their child.
When it comes to pregnancy counseling, I believe that the best approach is to care for both the child and the expectant parents by treating them with dignity and respect, not judgment or criticism, and certainly not painting the child as a burden or a “negative consequence.” Organizations that offer counseling should understand that parents are facing a difficult and emotional decision, and should be able to educate them on all of their options without pressure or coercion.
At Bethany, we offer trained counselors for both mothers and fathers who may be experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, and it is our goal to make sure that anyone who comes to us for counseling receives the education and the support that they need to make the best decision for themselves, and for their child.
In the U.S., there are an estimated 1.2 million abortions each year, while less than 1% of single women with unplanned pregnancies choose adoption. Perhaps we need to start doing a better job of positioning adoption as a positive alternative for a birthmother and a gift of love to the adopted child, rather than simply stating the negatives of teen pregnancy and hoping we can scare teens into doing ‘the right thing.’
At the end of last year, Bethany joined Heroic Media in creating the first TV ad educating women about "the adoption option.” Women across the country responded to learn more about adoption, with many considering preparing an adoption plan for their child.
If you’d like to learn more about the pregnancy counseling services that Bethany Christian Services offers, visit www.Bethany.org.