Why is the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy on Cinco de Mayo?

Today is Cinco de Mayo. It is not, contrary to popular belief, Mexican Independence Day. It’s actually a celebration of the Mexican victory over the French in a battle in 1862. Many also point out that the holiday is more celebrated in the US than in Mexico. But either way, it’s a day that is associated with Latinos, and often celebrated through cultural appropriation and eating things like guacamole and drinking tequila. But that’s another post.
This year, Cinco de Mayo is also the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
drawing of a girl smiling while a boy kisses her cheek with the words National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy written across the bottom
This day is hosted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. I was hoping that the date this year (which was different than last year’s–hosted on May 4) was just a coincidence. Unfortunately, I was wrong. This is from an email to their listserve for the Latino initiative:

The 2010 National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy is on Cinco de Mayo
Celebrate the ninth annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy on Wednesday, May 5, 2010–on Cinco de Mayo! Not sure what National Day is…esta bien! We’ve developed a National Day FAQ and a brochure that explain what National Day is, and what you can do to raise awareness among teens about the importance of making wise decisions about relationships and sex.

There are many things wrong with teen pregnancy prevention programs. They often shame young parents, they use messaging that is culturally incompetent and often downright offensive.
These programs are also often diverting funds from other types of programs that would likely do more to reduce teen pregnancy–educational opportunities, leadership development, comprehensive sexuality education.
The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health released their own report on Monday about teen pregnancy prevention targeted at Latina youth, focusing on how we can reduce stigma.
Prevention programs aren’t what we need. Instead, we need to ensure that all young people have access to education, employment, mentorship and health information so they can make informed decisions about when to parent.
Coordinating the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy with Cinco de Mayo unfairly paints teen parenting as a Latina “problem” and is just in bad taste.

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12 Comments

  1. eaelias
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been reading your site for awhile now, and usually agree with what I read. However, your blanket statement that, “There are many things wrong with teen pregnancy prevention programs… Prevention programs aren’t what we need” is wrong to me. I worked in a pregnancy prevention program and now for an organization that helps to promote pregnancy prevention.
    What is completely missing in our country – in all areas of health – is prevention. We are quick to remedy problems after the fact, which is why I firmly believe in prevention programs. Not all prevention programs are shaming. And in fact, many of them try to cover all the bases you mention. For instance, the program I worked for taught an evidence-based curriculum, ran a mentoring program, helped clients find jobs if necessary, and supported a youth development framework within the context of pregnancy prevention.
    I just don’t think it’s fair to say pregnancy prevention programs aren’t what we need. My old program (and the others around in the state I work in – Massachusetts) work hard to keep providing information, support youth (whether they have never had sex or are already teen parents), be culturally competent, and reduce teen pregnancy. There is a way to be preventative without being shaming, and many pregnancy prevention programs are comprehensive in their approach.

  2. supremepizza
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    “Prevention programs aren’t what we need. Instead, we need to ensure that all young people have access to education, employment, mentorship and health information so they can make informed decisions about when to parent.”
    Kids can’t drink, vote, serve in the military, or in many states have an unrestricted driver’s license. What makes us think kids can make “informed” decisions about when to parent. If kids were informed they wouldn’t be kids, they’d be adults.

  3. xxxevilgrinxxx
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Why link it to Cinco de Mayo?
    Bigotry, pure and simple. This is targeting Latinos/Latinas, or at the very least making the call that somehow this group is to be targeted for pregnancy-shaming.

  4. middlechild
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Prevention programs aren’t what we need. Instead, we need to ensure that all young people have access to education, employment, mentorship and health information so they can make informed decisions about when to parent.” That’s pretty unrealistic. I’d say it’s wrong-headed too.
    Why are the two goals–teens being informed about their health, having access to the tools they need to make long-term life goals (i.e., jobs, affordable, quality education, as you said) mutually exclusive?
    Do you really think that mentorship, employment, would still be worthwhile if there was still a high percentage of children/young adults under 18 having kids? What about the offspring of these teen parents?
    Do you think postponing pregnancy is just some neutral concept that exists in a vacuum? Which do you think is a more accessible, cost-effective means of promoting high school graduation or the prevention of the child abuse/neglect prevention associated with economically strained or unprepared (young) parents, in THIS economy, with these unemployment rates, with this country’s backwards views on family planning–all the things you mentioned, or a pregnancy prevention campaign?
    I don’t think pregnancy prevention is enough by itself, but it’s a start, in the short-term. Promoting economic security and quality of life for teens and young adults in this generation is worthwhile, but it’s also a more difficult, more expensive goal to pursue.

  5. Jamie Lynn
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Dude, I totally agree with middlechild and eaelias: Prevention programs are EXACTLY what we need! Prevention, of course, includes more than just “uh, hey kids, don’t have sex,” rather, smart comprehensive Prevention Programs have a holistic and more realistic approach to sex.
    And honestly, a program that provides “access to education, employment, mentorship and health information so they can make informed decisions about when to parent” sounds like a great prevention program to me!

  6. pokemontaco.wordpress.com
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    It’s 16 to drink in many countries and 17 to enlist. Consent ages can be as low as 12 or nonexistent, which certainly effects parenting ^O^

  7. dustxandxlight
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    “Prevention programs aren’t what we need. Instead, we need to ensure that all young people have access to education, employment, mentorship and health information so they can make informed decisions about when to parent. ”
    I’m confused. Isn’t this what prevention *is*??

  8. Dena
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    I’m agreeing with middlechild on this one. I understand where you’re coming from, and I definitely feel that having National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy on Cinco de Mayo is extremely culturally insensitive. However, the National Campaign does do extremely effective work. They lobby alongside other organizations fighting towards comprehensive sex education and other programming that will fix these issues. While they don’t provide direct service like say Planned Parenthood, they are playing a role in working towards decreasing the rates of teen pregnancy in this country.

  9. noalarms
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    you are basing young people’s capabilities to make decisions about their bodies and their lives on what the laws in the united states are?? please. if you’re going to be ageist and patronizing at least try to mold your argument around something less fucked up than the u.s. system of laws.

  10. noalarms
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    “I don’t think pregnancy prevention is enough by itself, but it’s a start, in the short-term. Promoting economic security and quality of life for teens and young adults in this generation is worthwhile, but it’s also a more difficult, more expensive goal to pursue.”
    i would argue that this is not difficult – it is simply a matter of political will. telling women what to do with their bodies is more politically palatable than creating an environment in which they can make decisions that are relevant to their lives. women – young or otherwise – aren’t stupid, and will do what they have to to survive. “teen pregnancy prevention” is simply not enough, and presents young parents as failures.
    there’s a lot more context that gets lost at “don’t get pregnant.” i highly suggest you read the NLIRH report for some of that context.

  11. maxwell simon
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    k first – the National Campaign does not lobby alongside other orgs fighting for comp sex ed. they’ve been sitting on the fence for years and are totally unwilling to take a stand for anything controversial. they are the reason the huge pot of $$ the Obama admin got approved strictly for teen pregnancy prevention isn’t instead for comprehensive sexuality education.
    second – why is preventing all teen pregnancies the goal? what about teens who want to get pregnant? what about teens who have no expectation of being able to afford college, but do want a family. why should they wait? if you want to prevent their pregnancies too than it sounds to me more like a program focused on controlling young womens’ fertility.
    why do teen pregnancy prevention programs often trumpet the message that a teen pregnancy will derail one’s education, health, and relationship, rather than support young mothers so that they have the same chances to succeed in school and other realms as young people who choose not to parent.
    it seems to me that if you really believe in supporting young people’s choices, then put your money where your mouth is and start supporting pregnant and parenting teens rather than increasing the stigma against them.

  12. middlechild
    Posted May 6, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    To be fair–it might be culturally insensitive, but don’t Latino/Hispanic teens having the current rates of teen pregnancy and/or out-of-wedlock pregnancy? (Not that marriage per se is a cure-all, but studies have shown there’s a relationship between child poverty rates and the marriage status of the parents. I don’t know how much of it causal or incidental. Perhaps parents who get married are more likely to be financially stable even BEFORE they have children.
    Also, studies on the stability of children whose parents are unmarried, but are both actively contributing material resources, time and support to the children they share seems to be scarce.)

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