MTV’s hit show 16 and Pregnant is about to air its second season, with a whole new round of pregnant teenage girls. And while I have mixed feelings about the show in general (does it glamorize teen pregnancy or shine a light on what is a huge problem in America?), there is one thing that irks me to no end. Where are the pregnant teens who choose not to stay pregnant? Where are the abortions?
I realize that it’s controversial to document a teenager who decides to end their pregnancy, but the fact is that nearly a third of all teen pregnancies end in abortion. But if you were to watch MTV, you’d never know that – you’d think all young women choose to go through with the pregnancy.
Why are some teen pregnancies worth covering while others aren’t? There is more than one kind of pregnant teen; even if a teenager decides to have an abortion she was still pregnant, her story is still important, and her decision is worth talking about. This absence of teens who choose abortion in 16 and Pregnant feels like a dismissal of so many young women’s experiences.
I know MTV can air whatever it wants, and that at the end of the day this is about ratings and money. But MTV has chosen to frame themselves as a responsible station – in follow-up specials to the show they’ve emphasized contraceptive use, they’ve highlighted teen pregnancy prevention month, and they teamed up with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancy. If MTV really wanted to prove themselves as responsible programmers, they would also feature pregnant teens who have abortions.
After all, teenagers are the ones that need the most support and information when it comes to something as serious as pregnancy. For example, teenagers are more likely to delay having an abortion until after they’re 15 weeks along, which increases medical risks. Teens have special needs and consideration, and a show on MTV that spoke honestly about all young women’s pregnancy stories could not only give teens the information they need about abortion, but could also help to destigmatize the procedure.
If MTV wants to take the lead in a national conversation about teenage pregnancy, they have to tell the whole story.