Can We Bring Stigma Back Into Fashion?

teen4n-webThe New York City Human Resources Administration has launched a series of ads aimed at reducing teen pregnancy.  “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen,” says one ad featuring a boy with a tear-stained face.  Another ad featuring a young girl says: “Honestly mom….chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?”

Of course, Planned Parenthood came out against these ads saying, “The City’s money would be better spent helping teens access health care, birth control, and high-quality sexual and reproductive health education.”

Hey, Planned Parenthood, how much more money do you want to dump down that rat-hole?   Public Health Departments are focused like a laser on “educating” teens about how to avoid pregnancy and disease—or, as I see it, trying to minimize the grave consequences of irresponsible sexual behavior that these same Public Health departments help promote.

For the past 40 or so years, Public Health officials have taught class after class featuring proper condom placement, explaining how pregnancy happens and how sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted (duh!), and making every six-year-old in the land aware of where she can get free birth control.  They’re on MTV, in your child’s school auditorium, at your workplace (especially if you work for a non-profit), at street fairs and farmer’s markets, in libraries, on billboards, on the news, embedded in popular culture like hit TV shows, and on and on.  The message is “We all know you’re going to have premarital sex as a teenager.  We won’t even try to talk you out of it.”  As Obama put it in his remarks that supported the decision to allow the “morning-after pill” to be purchased by 15-year-olds, he wouldn’t want his own daughters “punished” (with a pregnancy) for “making a mistake.”

It’s not a punishment, Obama.  It’s a consequence of what used to be considered bad behavior.   In my work, I hear endless lectures and read countless articles imploring the community to de-stigmatize all societal ills: HIV, unplanned pregnancy, alcoholism, homelessness, compulsive gambling, and so on and so on.  What I see happening with this “de-stigmatizing process” is that society’s ills become more and more acceptable and more and more disconnected from the behavior that causes them.

Out-of-wedlock pregnancy used to be something to avoid for the precise reason that everyone seemed to understand that a child born out of wedlock was not getting off to a good start in life.  Now it’s something all the movie stars do.

By the way, all the free condoms, free birth control, and massive educational efforts have apparently been for naught.  Teenage pregnancy, HIV and STD infection, and the heartbreaking consequences of these have risen dramatically over the past 40 years.  Hmm, what else happened 40 years ago?  Oh yes, Roe v. Wade.

Written by Cynthia Toordeman

Ann-Marie Murrell

Ann-Marie Murrell is one of the creators of PolitiChicks and co-owns the site with Morgan Brittany. Ann-Marie is co-author of two bestselling books, “What Women (Really) Want” and "PolitiChicks: A Clarion Call to Political Activism". She has appeared on dozens of television shows including Fox & Friends, CNN, Hannity, the Dr. Phil Show, Huckabee, Lou Dobbs, C-SPAN, One America News, Stuart Varney & Company, Newsmax, MSNBC, and more. In addition to PolitiChicks, Ann-Marie has written for multiple other news sites. You can find Ann-Marie Murrell on Facebook and Twitter: @PolitichickAM E-mail: [email protected]

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