The current conversation around young mothers is not only stigmatizing, it’s also incredibly insensitive. Campaigns such as #NoTeenPreg, launched by the Candies Foundation, present young mothers as inherently problematic – to themselves, their families, and their communities. The campaign proliferates messages like, “You’re supposed to be changing the world, not changing diapers,” as if teen moms are incapable of influencing positive change. The Candie’s Foundation isn’t the first organization to shame young parents and unfortunately it won’t be the last.
As advocacy organizations, we often respond to campaigns like this by explaining that the “real problem” with teen pregnancy is the lack of resources and medically accurate information about sex and sexuality. While I agree that these are often the cause of unintended pregnancies – 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended – we tend to avoid or ignore the question of why teen pregnancy is even an issue to begin with. These efforts are important but they still rely on the assumption that teen pregnancy is intrinsically a problem.
The reality is that young people can change the world and having a child isn’t going to stop them. I am originally from Tucson, AZ where our State Legislature is constantly passing new legislation restricting access to critical information, resources and reproductive health services. fortunately, this legislation is continuously taken to court and, like this week’s 20 week abortion ban, overturned. Arizona also has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country. Needless to say, I grew up knowing a lot of young parents, some who experienced an unintended pregnancy and some who chose to start families at a young age. Regardless of their circumstances, they experience the shame, stigma and judgment that teen parents everywhere face. [...]