Here’s my TIME.com proposal on how to save money and reduce societal mayhem. (Hat tip to Adam Glick, and to the few programs, like College Bound Sisters, already doing just that.) I’ve written more on pregnancy prevention, for example, here, and here.
New York City officials recently spent $400,000 on billboards featuring omniscient babies reminding potential mothers about deadbeat dads of the future: “Honestly, Mom, chances are, he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” In another ad, a crying infant says, “I’m twice as likely NOT to graduate high school because you had me as a teen.”
The “shame and blame” campaign almost immediately drew fire from Planned Parenthood and other health care providers, who argued that the ads marginalize young women who are in need of services, not scarlet letters. But a spokesperson from Mayor Bloomberg’s office defended the public service announcements on the grounds that they are but one component of a multi-faceted approach including school clinics and sex education, and noted that, “It is well past time when anyone can afford to be value neutral when it comes to teen pregnancy.”
Fair enough. But if we want to get serious about values, we might try an approach with a much more successful track record of behavior change: paying teenagers not to get pregnant. For every person who makes it to age 21 without becoming pregnant or impregnating someone else, the government should dip into the funds we’d otherwise spend caring for infants and teen moms and instead pay a significant cash bonus directly to the young person…