NYC rolls out ‘Cost of Teen Pregnancy’ PSAs

Dylan Stableford
The Lookout

For teens who think pregnancy's not expensive, a new ad campaign aimed at sexually active teens in New York City is telling them to think again.

The "Cost of Teen Pregnancy" campaign—announced this week by Mayor Michael Bloomberg—includes images of concerned toddlers with messages for their teen parents.

"Honestly Mom," one poster reads, "chances are he won't stay with you. What happens to me?"

"Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years," reads another, noting that New York state law requires a parent to pay child support until a child is 21.

The public service announcements, displayed in subways and bus shelters citywide, instruct teens to text "'NOTNOW' to 877877 for the real cost of teen pregnancy."

"This campaign makes very clear to young people that there’s a lot at stake when it comes to deciding to raise a child,” Bloomberg said in his weekly radio address on Sunday.

The effort, he said, will "let thousands of young New Yorkers know that waiting to becoming a parent could be the best decision they ever make.”

Along with his aggressive bans on public smoking and large, sugary drinks, Bloomberg has made it part of his mayoral legacy to combat teen pregnancy.

In 2011, the city quietly rolled out a controversial pilot program that allowed teens access to the contraceptive drug Plan B—the so-called "morning after pill"—in some of its public schools without parental consent. (Parents could choose to exclude their children from access.) In 2012, officials expanded the program to 13 schools with hopes of implementing it citywide.

Although condoms have been provided free for years, the pilot program (dubbed CATCH, or "Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health") gives students as young as 14 access to oral contraceptives along with the morning-after pill, which can prevent an unintended pregnancy up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.

According to the health department, the city's teen pregnancy rate has fallen 27 percent in the last decade. Still, it estimated that 7,000 girls under 17 became pregnant in 2011, and that 90 percent of those pregnancies were unplanned. According to ABC News, 64 percent chose abortion, leaving about 2,200 new teenage mothers.

When it comes to preventing teen pregnancy, shock advertising can work, the Washington Post noted. Milwaukee saw a drop in its teen pregnancy rate after running a campaign of unusual bus shelter advertisements. "One, under the guise of offering free ring tones, actually connected callers with the sound of a baby crying and an anti-pregnancy message," the paper reported.