' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: 16 and Pregnant encourages the teen-mom trend

Thursday, March 3, 2011

16 and Pregnant encourages the teen-mom trend

Teens having babies to get on television. That's what one of the former "stars" of MTV's hit reality series, "16 and Pregnant" says. I gagged when the upcoming story was promoted this morning on Good Morning America as I was walking out the door for my morning java at Starbucks with husband Tony and The New York Times.

According to the report at ABC--and there will be more on Nightline tonight at 11:35 p.m.--one of teens featured on "16 and Pregnant," Whitney Purvis said that her turn on the show turned her into a celebrity in her town of Rome, Georgia.  Purvis said that the movie, Juno, our least favorite movie of all time, make pregnancy look "cute." Right, she said, cute, and that made her want to participate in the original show on MTV.

The MTV producers go on an on about how "16 and Pregnant" was supposed to be a cautionary story--to prevent teens from getting pregnant, but you know, add a dash of that smart-ass-oh-so-cute-movie Juno, and you end up with girls...getting pregnant to become small town celebrities. When the movie came out I had an email discussion with a young woman who should know more about adoption--her mother was adopted--but I had the feeling that I was fighting an uphill battle to convince her that having a baby was so far removed from what the despicable script by Diablo Cody portrayed. (So far, so good; she's on the dean's list at college.)

Purvis blows MTV's we're-just-trying-to-do-a good-thing-here statement to smithereens:
"Now I meet people who are wanting to get pregnant just to be on the show....I know how it changes your life and then I meet people who are changing their life just for what I did," she said. "There's actually two girls who got pregnant just for that and they went to the same school and MTV had to wind up picking either one of them," Purvis added. "And so they picked one of them and then the other one, you know, is just sitting there."
Similar rumors of copy-cat teen moms captured headlines in recent weeks. Two pregnant girls who are friends with a current "Teen Mom" star said they got pregnant by accident. I mean, we who gave our babies away usually got pregnant when we did not mean to (call it an accident)...but today there is so much more ease of obtaining birth control, so much more education, that it is somehow doubly said when someone who is still in high school has a baby--to be a celebrity. Only half of them finish high school.

Purvis, now 19, says that the producers manipulated her and her boyfriend during the filming:
"They would take you in separate rooms and then they would film me with my friends and my boyfriend with his friends and just get you to talk about the things you don't like about each other," she said.
"They want you to argue ... they want you to talk about each other, they want you to get where you want to break up with each other to go stay at separate place. " 
Purvis, who says she was paid $5,000 for the whole series, now works as a waitress at a local pizza joint, trying to make ends meet to support her baby son. She loves her son, she says, but regrets the timing. Not sure what happened to her baby daddy.

As the show went on to be a hit, the girls on the show are now rumored to make five and six figure salaries; it's right below the obnoxious Jersey Shore in popularity with the demographic it aims for.

While television glamorizes babies having babies, teen birth rates declined 6 percent between 2008 and 2009, reaching a new low, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Yet the U.S. still has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world; twice as high as the United Kingdom, and three times as high as Canada. One in six girls will become a teen mother. And while the conservatives and religious right cavil about teaching sex education (including OMG, birth control) in high school, and want to cut any funding for Planned Parenthood and similar services, the annual cost to the public, through the subsidizes teen mothers need, is estimated at $9.1 billion. That's right, annual. Just cutting down the teen birth rate would save some of the money the Tea Party folks and rank-and-file Republicans are so hot to cut from the budget. 

BirthmarkI have never been able to watch any of the teen mom or give-away-your-baby shows; I have a visceral reaction to the whole idea of glamorizing what is such a traumatic event. Hell, I can't even watch any labor-room scenes in movies. I close my eyes and, if called for, cover my ears. Some four decades later the painful memories of my own labor are still too fresh of what was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I gave birth to a daughter I felt I had to surrender to the cold unknown of adoption. It has stayed with me always.--lorraine


  1. I'm afraid that 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom are going to turn into pro-adoption shows. They stress how difficult it is to raise a child as a teen. Tyler and Catelynn from one of the earlier seasons are one of the most admired couples and are hailed as heroes and selfless for doing the right thing and giving their daughter Carly up for adoption.

  2. I too as an adoptee can't watch any of those shows, nor do I want to.This is the weirdest thing I've ever heard in adoption and shows how very successful the industry is in it's publicity and pervasivness of message..the memes again!It's sad, it's sick and yet again it commodifies babies and their mothers.

  3. I think you're taking "cute" out of context:

    Corinna says she never idolized the girls on MTV or aspired to be a teen mom. But now that she's pregnant, her friends think it's is cute.

    "They seem like excited. Saying, 'I want a baby,' and I'm like, not right now," Corinna said. "It is not as easy as you all think."

  4. Corinna is not mentioned in my story.

    I was quoting Purvis.

  5. The whole thing makes me wonder if we mothers shouldn't do a show on the girls that didn't make it on the show and the ones that raise or give up their kids - the real stuff that happens behind the scenes.... make sure we include baby daddies too - they are part of the whole mess!

  6. I can't watch them, either. I don't get the draw.

  7. Maybe these teen pg shows act as bait for young women..as in...get pg, your friends will think it's cute, you might be on TV and become a teen celeb with a baby bump and of course all will be cured with the surrender of your newborn for adoption. Another way to fulfill the desperate desires of those who lust for a newborn, when one cannot produce one of their own? After all there is a shortage of newborns. Desperate times usually lead to desperate measures. Today I believe there is nothing the adoption industry will do to procure that particular commodity to bring to market. Always, always...follow the money!

  8. Some many issues with this show:

    -it exploits mother, father, and baby. And the baby has no ability to opt-out!

    -they are too young to realize how being made part of the cultural debate around teen pregnancy will lead to ridicule and scorn. Ouch.

    -they will never be able to escape what is caught on film. It will reverberate throughout their families for years to come.

    -I worry about what happens when the lights have faded and the cameras are gone. Fame acquired in the reality genre is usually short-lived. I've seen one too many episodes of "Whatever Happened To Whoever" to understand that the loss of fame often leads to a downward spiral, especially among those who achieved celebrity status in their youth.

    -"Dr" Drew should question the ethics of this show and reevaluate his own involvement in a program that has the potential to create life-long negative consequences for these young families. (Does he subscribe to the hippocratic oath, or is he not an MD?) Perhaps his rationalizaton is the "cautionary tale" aspect of the show, but these are REAL people, not fictional characters, and their lives will be forever impacted.

  9. As an adoptee of a formerly 16 year old mother, these shows make my skin crawl.

    They get more than small town notoriety - when I stand in line at the grocery store, at least one of the tabloids has a teen mom on it. Every. Time.

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.