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To Speak of Woe That Is in Teen Pregnancy - Mayor Bloomberg dares do it, with predictable backlash
City Journal ^ | 11 March 2013 | HEATHER MAC DONALD

Posted on 03/13/2013 8:33:23 PM PDT by neverdem

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has drawn the ire of the poverty-industrial complex for launching a gutsy ad campaign against teen pregnancy. Posters in thousands of bus shelters and subways show tiny tots bewailing the bad news about teen pregnancy. “Because you had me as a teen,” cries one, “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school.” Other stressed-out toddlers warn of the financial burdens their unwed mothers will face and the near certainty that their fathers won’t stick around. One little sage identifies the simplest way to avoid poverty: graduate from high school, get a job, and wait until marriage before having a child.

These are all incontrovertible facts that social science has known for decades but that professors and politicians have not dared inject into the public sphere. And the reason for their reticence is fully on display in the advocacy world’s reaction to the ad campaign. Like clockwork, Planned Parenthood of New York put out a press release blasting the ads for “stigmatizing” teen parents. Equally predictably, the New York Times provided a platform to amplify the group’s complaint: “Haydee Morales, vice president for education and training at Planned Parenthood of New York City, [told the Times that] the organization was ‘shocked and taken aback’ by the tone of the new campaign. ‘Hurting and shaming communities is not what’s going to bring teen pregnancy rates down,’ she added.”

Less predictable was the charge in the Planned Parenthood press release that the posters “perpetuate gender stereotypes.” Even the most seasoned observers of the academic-advocacy-victimology axis might not have seen this one coming. Presumably, the ads “perpetuate gender stereotypes” by pointing out to “Dad” the costs of child support and to “Mom” that when the father takes off, as he likely will, she’ll be left holding the diaper bag. It appears that we have a new politically correct fantasy: unwed teen fathers are as likely to be the sole provider for their child as teen moms.

The backlash illustrates two defining features of contemporary poverty discourse. First is the stigma against stigma. Accusing someone of being stigmatizing is almost as powerful a means of silencing him as calling him a racist. For millennia, humans relied on social disapproval to reduce behavior that produced disproportionate costs to individuals and the community. Now, however, one cannot point out the bad consequences of actions that generate multigenerational poverty, because that would be “judgmental.” Even abstract statements of fact, like those in the Bloomberg ad campaign, are now reviled as insensitive, even when not directed at any particular individual.

The second defining figure of our poverty discourse is the philosophical divide over poverty and causality. Planned Parenthood’s Morales told the Times that the ad campaign’s message—that teenage pregnancy leads to poverty—was “backward,” in the Times’s words. “It’s not teen pregnancies that cause poverty, but poverty that causes teen pregnancy,” she said. The question of whether poverty is the all-encompassing explanation for self-defeating behaviors or the result of those behaviors—where, in other words, personal responsibility ends and ineluctable social causes begin—forms a dividing line between what may be loosely characterized as the liberal and conservative worldviews. There are some situations where one could plausibly argue that a person’s environment is so lousy that it is unfair to expect him to act responsibly—a student in a hopelessly chaotic classroom, say, who doesn’t do his schoolwork. But it requires an extremely strained storyline to maintain that the decision about whether to have intercourse and whether to use contraception is forced on teens by “poverty” (even assuming that New York’s unwed teen parents, many of whom possess the latest handheld electronic devices and cutting-edge sneakers, may be properly characterized as poverty-stricken). Free or low-cost contraception, including the morning-after pill, is widely available to New York teens, including in their own high schools. Is the lack of self-control or the inability to plan ahead also the result, rather than the cause, of poverty? The advocates would say yes.

Even were it the case that poverty indeed causes teen pregnancy, crime, or any of the other destructive behaviors that the advocates claim are economically determined, surely it is better to tell children and teens that they have the power to determine their own fate through hard work and self-control, rather than sending the message that society expects them to fail.

Intolerance for the poverty excuse and a universal expectation of personal responsibility would put the poverty-industrial complex out of business, of course, which is why Planned Parenthood admonishes the Bloomberg administration instead: “It’s time we focus on the root causes [of teen pregnancy] rather than point fingers at teen parents and their children.” The implication that the administration is not already focusing on what Planned Parenthood deems the “root causes” of teen pregnancy is hilarious. New York City has spent billions over the decades “fighting poverty” through social-service programs and a smorgasbord of transfer payments. Bloomberg has also liberally poured taxpayer dollars into family-planning services, sex education, and—it has come to this—“relationship education” for students.

Nearly as dangerous as Planned Parenthood’s philosophical position on individual will are the group’s factual claims about teen pregnancy. “Teenage parenthood is simply not the disastrous and life-compromising event these ads portray,” the group asserts in its press release, shamelessly denying the overwhelming evidence. The city’s farsighted welfare commissioner, Robert Doar, who pioneered the ad campaign, knows better. To be sure, one can always find an individual teen mother here or there who has raised law-abiding, successful children. But such exceptions don’t disprove the rule that teen parenting is, on average, a tragedy for parent, child, and society. The administration’s anti-teen-pregnancy campaign could be one of its most important initiatives if the campaign inspires public figures elsewhere (including New York governor Andrew Cuomo) to get some backbone and follow suit.

The bigger issue for society is single parenting generally, not just among teens, as the New York Post’s Michael Goodwin has pointed out. The consequences of teen parenting—higher family rates of criminal activity, welfare dependency, and educational failure—are no less present when older single mothers have children. And whereas unwed teen births have actually declined over the last two decades, illegitimacy among adults has steadily risen, reaching nearly 41 percent of all births in 2011 (and a catastrophic 72 percent of black births and 53 percent of Hispanic births). By focusing only on teen births, the New York campaign runs a slight risk of implying that single parenting by adults is not an equal problem. But that’s a risk worth taking, and the ads’ facts about financial stress easily translate to the 20-something context.

Given the longstanding bipartisan consensus among policy wonks and social scientists on the costs of teen parenting, one might have thought that the city’s effort to publicize those costs would be universally welcomed. The hysterical reaction against the city’s public-service announcements, however, shows how much courage it took the Bloomberg administration to say even that much—and how divided the political world remains over the question of poverty and personal responsibility.

Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor of City Journal and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections; US: New York
KEYWORDS: abortion; bloomberg; deathpanels; newyork; newyorkcity; newyorkslimes; newyorktimes; obamacare; plannedparenthood; teenpregnancy; zerocare
Give credit where credit is due. Bloomberg got something right! Planned Parenthood's angle escapes me.
1 posted on 03/13/2013 8:33:23 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem
Yep that is true. He did get it right on this issue. But the media won't see it that way. This statement {not even a law} rather than his acts of tyranny {Unconstitutional laws} will be attacked with a vengeance.
2 posted on 03/13/2013 8:43:15 PM PDT by cva66snipe (Two Choices left for U.S. One Nation Under GOD or One Nation Under Judgment? Which one say ye?)
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To: neverdem

“Planned Parenthood of New York put out a press release blasting the ads for “stigmatizing” teen parents.”

Duh! That’s the point! Funny how illegitimacy rates were low back when they were stigmatized.

Not that PP cares about their feelings. Less teen parents means less panicked trips to get abortions, and less money for them.


3 posted on 03/13/2013 8:45:06 PM PDT by Shadow44
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To: neverdem

The intelligentsia gets all worked up over self-righteous signs published for themselves and an imaginary audience, while teens everywhere are too stupid to read those signs due to the intelligentsia’s inability to recognize what constitutes a solid family, solid education, and a resultant civil society.


4 posted on 03/13/2013 8:47:25 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew (double trouble, here we come)
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To: neverdem

what did he do right?

These posters are not pro-abstinance

To stop teen pregnancy, stay away from poverty they say


5 posted on 03/13/2013 8:49:20 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: neverdem

Everything Bloomie touches turns to crap.

But that’s what you get when the king wants to micromanage every aspect of the peasants’ lives.


6 posted on 03/13/2013 8:50:17 PM PDT by Secret Agent Man (I can neither confirm or deny that; even if I could, I couldn't - it's classified.)
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To: AdmSmith; AnonymousConservative; Berosus; bigheadfred; Bockscar; ColdOne; Convert from ECUSA; ...

He’s encouraging “safe sex” and abortion, that’s all. Planned Parenthood is to those issues what the Liberal Brain Straw Man Version of the NRA is to the 2nd Amendment. Thanks neverdem.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2996648/posts


7 posted on 03/13/2013 8:57:24 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Romney would have been worse, if you're a dumb ass.)
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To: neverdem

Where in the brief description does it say that Nanny Bloomberg opposes teen ABORTION? He only wants them not to deliver the baby. No stats on what happens to teenagers who abort their children (drugs, psychological problems, STDs, etc).


8 posted on 03/13/2013 9:12:14 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (America 2013 - STUCK ON STUPID)
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To: GeronL

SIECUS/Planned Parenthood is adamantly anti-abstinence. They consider it to be “unhealthy”.


9 posted on 03/13/2013 9:13:28 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (America 2013 - STUCK ON STUPID)
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To: a fool in paradise

nothing in those posters prinites abstinence as far as I see


10 posted on 03/13/2013 9:18:56 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: GeronL

Abstinence won’t stop the teen pregnancy problem. Ask the church going family down the street from me who are raising a wonderful 3 yr old when their daughter slipped.

Living in Appalachia for so long, I’m beginning to realize abstinence alone won’t solve this problem.


11 posted on 03/13/2013 9:55:14 PM PDT by cetarist
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To: cetarist
Abstinence won’t stop the teen pregnancy problem.



What we have here is a failure to abstain!

12 posted on 03/13/2013 10:35:20 PM PDT by ApplegateRanch (Love me, love my guns!©)
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To: cetarist

What are you talking about?

If that person practiced abstinence, they won’t get pregnant, 100% guaranteed


13 posted on 03/13/2013 11:03:53 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: cetarist
You're right that people make mistakes, but shotgun weddings used to be the reasonable response in many of those situations. Bring back marriage in general, and bring back shotgun weddings.
14 posted on 03/14/2013 2:34:42 AM PDT by utahagen
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To: neverdem

A good first step would be to stop providing financial incentives to unwed mothers.


15 posted on 03/14/2013 4:05:18 AM PDT by GP100
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To: neverdem

[Bloomberg got something right!]

...right after he got ruled against on his soda war...now he has to get his (r)epublican mojo back.


16 posted on 03/14/2013 4:58:09 AM PDT by RetSignman ("...a Republic if you can keep it")
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To: cetarist

You think their daughter got pregnant by abstaining?


17 posted on 03/14/2013 5:43:14 AM PDT by Campion ("Social justice" begins in the womb)
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To: neverdem

Finally. Something I can get behind him on. Of course, the race baiters and government parasites won’t see it that way.


18 posted on 03/14/2013 5:44:39 AM PDT by freeangel ( (free speech is only good until someone else doesn't like it)
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To: neverdem
‘Hurting and shaming communities is not what’s going to bring teen pregnancy rates down,’ she added.”

But abortions will - right Haydee from Planned Parenthood?

These people are scum.

19 posted on 03/14/2013 5:55:54 AM PDT by liberalh8ter (If Barack has a memory like a steel trap, why can't he remember what the Constitution says?)
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To: freeangel

When the libs first introduced sex education into the public schools, and at an early age, the main rationale was that it would help prevent teen pregnancy ( putting condoms on bananas)..well, that hasn’t worked..


20 posted on 03/14/2013 6:06:09 AM PDT by ken5050 ("One useless man is a shame, two are a law firm, three or more are a Congress".. John Adams)
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To: neverdem

You subsidize something, you get more of it. You also get the skimmers who rake off a little for themselves in the process of the wealth transfer.

Poverty pimps is an apt names for the skimmers.


21 posted on 03/14/2013 6:50:15 AM PDT by randita
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To: GeronL
what did he do right?

This poster campaign as per the author, Heather Mac Donald.

One little sage identifies the simplest way to avoid poverty: graduate from high school, get a job, and wait until marriage before having a child.

The author knows the facts. She never fails to make those points.
22 posted on 03/14/2013 9:32:57 AM PDT by neverdem ( Xin loi min oi)
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To: neverdem

I wasn’t referring to City Journal I was referring to the Bloomberg ad campaign, which do you think more NYC teens will see more of, the posters or this article?


23 posted on 03/14/2013 2:08:05 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: neverdem

an excellent piece on the subject by Anne Coulter

http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2013-03-13.html


24 posted on 03/16/2013 7:23:17 AM PDT by dervish (either the vote was corrupt or the electorate is)
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To: cetarist

“Abstinence won’t stop the teen pregnancy problem. Ask the church going family down the street from me who are raising a wonderful 3 yr old when their daughter slipped.”

It would have worked if she had tried it.


25 posted on 03/16/2013 7:28:42 AM PDT by AppyPappy (You never see a massacre at a gun show.)
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