New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched a giant Public Service Announcement campaign that highlights the problems of teenage parenting. While the ads certainly have shock value, all of the statistics given are accurate and reference issues such as lower graduation rates for the children of teem moms and the financial burden a child is.
Even though the PSAs are entirely informative and factual, that hasn’t stopped advocacy groups from coming out against the ads, saying they stigmatize a group of people. Planned Parenthood of New York City proclaimed: "Hurting and shaming communities is not what’s going to bring teen pregnancy rates down."
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.
Teen pregnancy is a problem that can easily be prevented, especially with the help of New York City public schools, where various forms of contraception are provided without any questions asked. Even if some people find these PSAs offensive, sometimes society needs a painful dose of reality.