Last week, I shared my thoughts on a teen pregnancy prevention campaign launched by the Department of Social Services of the New York City Human Resources Administration called “Think Being a Teen Parent Won’t Cost You?” . A few days later, I met with some amazing women here in New York City, as members of the New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice . We spent overly 2 hours venting our frustrations, brainstorming ideas, and coming up with demands and solutions that will help (and not harm) teen mothers living and parenting in New York City.

As I mentioned last week, there is nothing wrong with getting teens to think about what they could potentially face if they were to become a young parent, but it should not be at the cost of shaming, blaming and stigmatizing their peers who have chosen to parent.

Based on that amazing evening of frustration, strategy, and insight, we have decided to launch the No Stigma! No Shame! campaign. Read our letter and sign on to show your support for our campaign. (The sign on information is included after the letter!)


March 12, 2013

Dear Community,

The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice (NYC4RJ) condemns the New York City Human Resource Administration’s (HRA) use of images and messaging that attacks young people and their families. This campaign, “Think Being a Teen Parent Won’t Cost You?” shames teen parents, especially teen parents of color, and uses images of their children to blame them for conditions that are society’s responsibility to address.

The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice is a coalition of grassroots activists in New York City, working to advance the human rights of women and girls of color and LGBTQ people of color through our advocacy priority areas of Education, Health and Families. 

We fail as a society when we shame young people instead of teaching them what they need to know to make the best decisions about their lives. For those of us who do direct service, education and advocacy around issues of poverty, access to comprehensive sex education, contraception, family planning and addressing health disparities that have historically impacted communities of color, we are acutely aware of the budget cuts to programs and services that could address and reverse these conditions within our communities. The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice is holding HRA accountable for reinforcing negative stereotypes about the decision-making ability of young people instead of investing in programs and policies that encourage young people to thrive.

In response to this HRA campaign, the New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice asserts, teen parents need support, not shame! We are launching the NO STIGMA! NO SHAME! Campaign with the following demands:

– Public acknowledgement and apology from HRA

– Removal of all HRA campaign posters

– A meeting between the HRA and NYC4RJ leaders

– Creation of a Teen Parent Council within HRA, composed of teen parents and their advocates, to approve any future messaging around teen pregnancy prevention

In order to address teen pregnancy, the HRA and all New York City government programs must offer teen parents support, not stigmatizing messages.  “In August, according to the Department Of Education’s Sex Education website, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that beginning in the second semester of the 2011-2012 school year, New York City will require schools to include sexual health education as part of comprehensive health education.”  Teen parents need government officials to provide resources that encourage them to foster resilience instead of shaming them for creating their own families.

The New York City Coalition for Reproductive Justice calls on the HRA to dismantle this reprehensible campaign and address the real problem: lack of support for teen parents and their families.


The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice

Jasmine Burnett – Founder & Lead Organizer

Nicole Clark, MSW – No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign Leader

Here are some ways to show your support:

1. Stand with us and sign on to our letter by contacting Jasmine Burnett, founder of NYC4RJ, at nyc4rj[at]gmail[dot]com. Please listyour name, any academic or professional affiliations, and state. Your information will be added to this letter, and this letter will be sent to Robert Doar, commissioner of HRA’s Department of Social Services, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

2. Join us on social media! Follow NYC4RJ on Twitter (and follow our hashtag #NoStigmaNoShame ) and like the NYC4RJ Facebook page to keep up with the latest updates on the No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign.

3. Share the opinion blogs posts from other bloggers about the HRA campaign. Check out these responses from Miriam Perez, Natasha Vianna, Gloria Malone, myself, and Brittany Braithwaite.

4. Share this blog post and the NYC4RJ No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign sign-on letter with others and encourage them contact Jasmine Burnett to sign on with their support.

This sign on letter is just the beginning. We plan to incorporate a campaign that infuses policy advocacy, arts, and education that will make sure that all teens in New York City are able to make the best decisions for their health and lives. Support us in getting the word out and pushing for a teen pregnancy prevention and parenting campaign that DOES NOT shame and blame teen parents.

Raise Your Voice: Have you signed on in support of the “No Stigma! No Shame!” Campaign? Let us know in the comments section below. 

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