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NRL News
Page 9
February/March 2010
Volume 37
Issue 2-3

Pro-Abortionist Complains about the Absence of Abortions on 16 and Pregnant

By Dave Andrusko

The first I heard of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant was when I was flipping channels and caught the last few minutes of an episode. Thus I am no position to say if the program about pregnant teenagers, now in its second season, is realistic, optimistic, cliché-ridden, or freshly innovative.

Here’s how the show describes itself:

MTV’s 16 and Pregnant is an hour-long documentary series focusing on the controversial subject of teen pregnancy. Each episode follows a 5–7 month period in the life of a teenager as she navigates the bumpy terrain of adolescence, growing pains, rebellion, and coming of age; all while dealing with being pregnant.

Each story offers a unique look into the wide variety of challenges pregnant teens face: marriage, adoption, religion, gossip, finances, rumors among the community, graduating high school, getting (or losing) a job. Faced with incredibly adult decisions, these girls are forced to sacrifice their teenage years and their high school experiences. But there is an optimism among them; they have the dedication to make their lives work, and to do as they see fit to provide the best for their babies.”

What I can comment on is an entry written by feminist blogger and author Jessica Valenti. The post is titled, “Why no abortions on MTV’s 16 and Pregnant?” and is one of a loooong series of complaints that the American public is not getting enough stories about teen pregnancies that end in abortion. This lament is especially loud when the program is geared to younger audiences.

Many teenage girls do get pregnant each year, and over a quarter have abortions. “But if you were to watch MTV, you’d never know that,” according to Ms. Valenti, “you’d think all young women choose to go through with the pregnancy.”

So, what’s the explanation?

To be clear, I have no first-hand knowledge why the people who put this show together haven’t done so (assuming they haven’t), or if they’ve publicly addressed the absence of abortion. It could well be that they simply wish to steer away from controversy.

But there are other possible reasons as well. Let’s take one—that the culture at large, young people in particular, increasingly espouses pro-life views.

There is lots of data to back that up, including a January 2006 survey of high school seniors that found remarkably pro-life views (see www.nrlc.org/News_and_Views/January06/nv012606Part2.html).

According to Hamilton College Professor Dennis Gilbert, though that year’s high school graduates were liberal on other social issues, they “are remarkably conservative on the issues surrounding abortion. We found that most high school seniors regard abortion as morally wrong and would significantly limit a woman’s right to choose.”

In addition, “Two-thirds of the seniors told us they believe abortion is always or usually ‘morally wrong.’ Asked whether a high school senior who becomes pregnant should keep the baby, give it up for adoption or have an abortion, 26 percent suggested the first and 54 percent the second alternative. Only 13 percent proposed abortion.

An open-ended question on this same topic in a preliminary pilot poll elicited similar responses. In rejecting the abortion option, many students stressed the girl’s moral responsibility. ‘She took the chance of having sex,’ noted one. ‘She made a decision and needs to live with it,’ insisted another.”

And these kids were not strangers to the abortion issue. “Half the females and 36 percent of the males polled say they know someone who has had an abortion,” Gilbert explains. Furthermore, “We asked females whether they would ‘consider’ abortion if they became pregnant in high school and males whether they would want their partner to do so.”

The response from 70 percent of females and 67 percent of males? “No.”

Valenti has plenty of reasons why she vents against 16 and Pregnant, some more plausible than others. My guess is that near the top of the reasons for her position is one you find near the bottom of her blog entry: if only they showed teens having abortions, it could help “destigmatize the procedure.”

What a surprise.

When I posted this story on my blog, I received a number of brilliant reponses. One reader offered this explanation why 16 and Pregnant avoided showing girls who abort, and why, if the program did, Ms. Valenti might be very sorry she got what she wished for.

My reader wrote, “My guess is that if they really showed a 16 year old having an abortion [whether she agonized or made a callously indifferent decision] but showed the actual abortion and the dismembered child being tossed into a trash can, and then followed the teen’s guilt, remorse, and years of trying to cope with what she had done, sometimes even going out and getting pregnant again to have a replacement baby, or struggling with years of depression and perhaps infertility ... well, that would make a pretty gruesome story that might dissuade more teens than persuade.”