With the surging popularity of teenage pregnancy in Hollywood, both on screen (Jason Reitman’s Juno) and off (Jamie Lynn Spears’ recent baby news), it seems high time we take a pregnant pause and seriously rethink the reality of what it means to be a kid, knocked up.
In the cinematic world, where the reality of sexually transmitted infections is rarely mentioned and abortion, as Ellen Goodman puts it, “has become the right-to-choose that’s never chosen,” the complexities of teenage pregnancy are obscured in favor of witty one-liners and a happy ending.
Teenage pregnancy, especially for those with limited access to resources, rarely ends on a warm and fuzzy note. Pregnant teens risk mental and physical health problems and face the harsh economic consequences of curtailed education and low employment prospects. While teen pregnancy is on the decline in Canada, it is still a reality for far too many.
A. O. Scott, in his New York Times review of Juno, called the film, “not anti-abortion but rather pro-adulthood,” and I have to pose the question, what 16-year-old should have to choose between abortion and adulthood? In fact, either choice represents a serious loss in a young girl’s life.
While the fictional character, Juno, and the real-life Jamie Lynn Spears, have the support and resources of their respective families, what of the girls who have access to neither? What of the girls who must make these hard choices without emotional or financial support of any kind?
In a world where far too many girls are forced into early adulthood, in a world where women and girls continue to represent the poorest of the poor, I think we need to remember the harsh reality of teenage pregnancy and the extremely difficult choices that come along with it.