16 and Pregnant

First off, I’m pro-choice. Am I pro-abortion? No – that’s ridiculous – no one wants to encourage abortions. But I’m pro-abortion rights. The right to choose should be available for those who are not ready or willing to give birth as well as those who, for medical reasons, deem it in their best interest. I’m not hear to debate that, however – just giving my view.

I also dislike anything that glorifies teen pregnancy or in any way makes it seem like a desirable choice. The Jamie Lynn Spears scenario comes to mind. Of course, your average teen has neither the resources nor the support to accommodate a pregnancy during her late childhood, but you seldom see that side of it in the media, with young celebrities pictured with their babies held up like trendy accessories.

So I was reading the channel channel last week – you know the guide channel? – and I saw the show “16 and Pregnant” playing on MTV. I admit I haven’t watched MTV in some time, because I’m a stodgy old fuddyduddy now, but from what I recall, the quality and shall we say…moral content?…of the shows were somewhat lacking. There’s a time and a place for morally dubious programming, don’t get me wrong, but a show about teen pregnancy, obviously aimed at teens, probably isn’t it.

Of course I was curious enough to flip over to MTV to see whether it was some crude glorification of teen pregnancy, like profiling underaged starlets’ impending motherhood.

I have to say, I was not only surprised by what I found, but I was delighted.

Teens are difficult creatures – they don’t want to be told what to do and they assume they know everything. Oh, and they are immortal, of course. Can’t forget that. But showing them the ups and downs of teen pregnancy, which is what this program does, might actually have an effect.

And anything that has an actual effect to help reduce the number of teen pregnancies is something we need to study further. Preaching abstinence only at them, clearly doesn’t work at all. I wish it did, but it simply doesn’t. Perhaps showing them what actually happens to a pregnant girl might?

Each episode profiles a pregnant teenager for about six months and shows the changes the girl goes through, both physically and emotionally, but also in regard to their social life, education, family, and finances through the end of the pregnancy and for the first few months of being a new mom. And those changes are dramatic – friends are put aside for staying at home with baby, college plans are postponed, relationships are changed and in some cases destroyed.

While it also shows an optimistic view overall, the program does not spare the hardships that come in the form of swollen ankles, unattended proms, social snubbing, and staying up all night every night with a fussy newborn when her friends are out painting the town red, dating, and graduating high school. And in many cases, it shows the once-loving boyfriend continuing to enjoy his teenage years as if nothing had happened, leaving all or most of the responsibility to the mother of his child.

In short, the series is about childhoods abruptly left behind for much more difficult responsibilities. Responsibilities that can’t be ignored, no matter how badly you want to go out or take a nap.

The show does not have a narrator other than the teen herself and the adults in the program are supporting characters only. The shows are in no way preachy or overbearing, but rather compelling and honest. Compelling enough for this mom of three to DRV the rest of the series – I’ve watched 5 so far, each profiling a girl from a different background.

If kids will listen to anything, I suspect it will be something like this, especially coming from MTV – a station most teens watch at least occasionally and which is viewed as way cooler than one’s own parents.

And this is something that both those who are strongly in favor of pro-abortion rights and those who are against of abortion rights should be able to support. Reducing the need for abortions to begin with.

The show also has its own website that has links to information about how to avoid pregnancy and facts about sex and contraception as well as updates on the profiled teens and various extras, like footage that didn’t make the show. You can also view full episodes. All in all, a good resource for girls who are at risk for pregnancy as well as for boys.

Thanks, MTV for such a timely and much-needed series.

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Beggars

I saw some today. I was driving down a main street to take the baby to the pediatrician and I saw a whole team of them. A “team?” you ask? Yes, a baseball team.

Little league, to be precise, according to their signs. The coaches and parents had their children out begging for money on a very busy road – running up and down the median and around traffic to collect spare change.

I have a problem with that. Well, two.

First, it’s not safe. It is three lanes up and three lanes down plus turn lanes with a narrow median. On Saturdays the traffic backs up and can be rather unpleasant. This intersection isn’t safe for adults to be running around on, let alone children. Particularly a very large group of children. But this scenario is not uncommon – I see it all the time, especially in this area, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. I certainly wouldn’t want my eight or ten year old out there and I most definitely wouldn’t want the liability of having other people’s kids with me!

Second, it’s a terrible lesson to teach kids. You want a load of money for some project you have planned (to travel to a big game, in this case)? Then you need to put some effort into earning it. What happened to earning the cash – or at least a good chunk of it? There’s already such a culture of entitlement – among both big and little people and this only feeds into that further. What happened to bake sales, car washes, or even selling a product like candy bars or popcorn?

When I was 15 I wanted to go on a trip to Spain with the school Spanish Club. I think the basic cost was $1500 and then incidentals on top of that. My parents told me that if I earned $1000 they would chip in the rest. And I did – by babysitting kids at $2.50-$3.00/hour every day after school. I didn’t even question it, but was instead incredibly grateful that they offered to chip in at all.

I’m not only not inclined to give to a little beggar child, but I would be horrified if my child was asked to participate in such an activity and would absolutely refuse such a request.

It’s one thing to hold a carwash and accept a $20 instead of the $5 charged – that’s a donation, unsolicited at that. When the Girl Scouts sell cookies outside my local Kroger, I usually ask what their favorite flavors are and then buy a couple boxes FOR the kids selling – they get the money and the cookies. The look on their faces is priceless.

Or even to ask a company for a special favor, like a donation of a product that it makes. In fact I recall my own mother going around on behalf of our Scout Troop to McDonalds asking for pickle buckets for camp to store out food in (raccoon-proof).

But outright begging on the street? Oh, no – not my child.

However, this is far from the first time I’ve seen children out at this intersection. Sometimes they are groups that claim to be church youth groups or other small groups which would be hard to verify, but they are often well-recognized groups like this. Is this acceptable now? Do most people see this as a legitimate fundraising source? Mr. Lawyer, when polled, was as deadset against it as I, but I’d be interested to know how other people view this form of fundraising.

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