If you’re easily offended, a new ad campaign in Chicago may provoke shock and outrage: it is meant to. Pregnant” boys with bloated bellies and frowning faces are popping up in ads plastered across Chicago buses and trains: part of a city campaign to draw attention to the problem of teenage pregnancy. The rate of teenage pregnancy in Chicago is more than twice the national average.
Brian Richardson, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Health said the ads with a tagline, “Unexpected? Most teen pregnancies are,” intend to shock. Richardson said the campaign makes the point: “when a young girl becomes pregnant she is not the only one that suffers. The daughters of teen mothers are more likely to become teen moms themselves,” he said. Richardson stated, “The sons of teen moms are more likely to go to prison. These are challenges that go beyond one girl or one woman. The more we can work together to drive down the birth rate, and provide more information to teens, the better off we’ll all be.”
The ad campaign primarily focuses around schools and areas of Chicago with the highest rate of unplanned teenage pregnancies. The ads, launched in early May in conjunction with National Teen Pregnancy Month are only part of the city sponsored effort to reduce teen pregnancy: free condoms and pamphlets advocating both abstinence and contraception are distributed throughout Chicago public high schools.
Even though many residents of the windy city find the ads disgusting, in poor taste and offensive to the transgender community, they provoke discussion and increase awareness. The campaign, first presented in Milwaukee in 2009, had a slightly different tagline: “It shouldn’t be any less disturbing when it’s a girl.” The non-profit organization that developed the campaign reports a 10 percent drop in teenage pregnancies in the Milwaukee area where the campaign was promoted.
Although teen pregnancy remains a problem in many impoverished rural areas and inner city locations, a recent study from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that teen births dropped by up to 15 percent in all states with the exception of North Dakota and West Virginia during the period of 2007 to 2011. Teen pregnancy rates in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Idaho and Colorado fell by more than 30 percent.
By: Marlene Affeld