Under the leadership of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a new ad campaign has been introduced advising New York teens to wait until they are married before they have children.
The ads show photos of crying and sad toddlers on subways and bus shelters with messages about the consequences of teen pregnancy.
"If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% chance of not being in poverty," one ad says.
"Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years," another ad says, followed by: "Think being a teen parent won't cost you? NY state law requires a parent to pay child support until a child is 21."
The ad campaign's website has four videos of young adults who had children when they were teenagers reflecting on their poor choices. New York teens can also text "NOTNOW" to 877877 to get more information about the teen pregnancy.
New York City's Planned Parenthood condemned the ads.
"The latest NYC ad campaign creates stigma, hostility, and negative public opinions about teen pregnancy and parenthood rather than offering alternative aspirations for young people," said Haydee Morales, vice president of Education and Training in a Wednesday statement. "The city's money would be better spent helping teens access health care, birth control, and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education, not on an ad campaign intended to create shock value."
New York Post political columnist Michael Goodwin wrote Wednesday that he once advised Bloomberg to engage the issue of teen pregnancy, but Bloomberg rejected the idea at the time because he thought it would be too controversial, "presumably because of the racial implications. Nationally, 73 percent of black children are born to single mothers."
"Perhaps someone pointed out to him that being born out of wedlock is a greater handicap for children than having too many sugary drinks or even smoking," Goodwin joked in reference to Bloomberg's "large soda ban."
The only issue Goodwin has with the campaign is that it is aimed at teens, even though most out-of-wedlock births come from those aged 20 to 29. Teen moms only represent 12 percent of out-of-wedlock births.
Goodwin spoke with Human Resources Commissioner Robert Doar, who has worked to get Bloomberg and City Hall to adopt the campaign. Doar explained that the messages were developed after focus groups showed that teens are overly confident about their ability to be successful parents.
The campaign is small, Goodwin noted. It will only run for a month with a $350,000 budget. Goodwin suggests a follow-up to the project could focus more on the advantages of marriage and also get churches involved.
"Parents who get married are more likely to stay together than those who don't and, all other things being equal, that's far better for children," Goodwin wrote.