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Get Real, Hollywood: Babies Are No Joke

From second left, actresses Ellen Page, Olivia Thirlby and Allison Janney in the film "Juno."
From second left, actresses Ellen Page, Olivia Thirlby and Allison Janney in the film "Juno." (By Doane Gregory -- Fox Searchlight Pictures Via Associated Press)

"The hardest thing to realize," Nichols said, "is that as a parent your every single act or word is creating the mother, father, wife or girlfriend and member of society that your child will grow up to be. I'm still trying to fix what I messed up."

It's a conundrum. Few of us would want to bring back the shame that pregnant girls of the past endured, even if it would keep some girls from "getting in trouble." Girls and young women who become pregnant need our support, not our derision or indifference.

But how can we slow the growth of unwanted pregnancies, which, according to research, have increased slightly and now make up one out of three pregnancies? Or the growth of births to unmarried mothers that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have jumped 20 percent since 2002, to 1.64 million annually, a record high? Many young people are by nature focused on themselves. How can we expand their focus to think about what would happen to a child that they brought into the world?

Sixteen-year-old Sydney Greene, gathered with other teens in a downtown Washington office to watch a preview of "The Baby Borrowers," is not optimistic.

"People think more about STDs than babies," she says.

"It's not a lack of compassion on their part," says Marisa Nightingale, senior director for media programs at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "Just dealing with yourself in high school is a big deal."

Perhaps teens -- and young women in their 20s -- can be made to see that there's a simple way to avoid the whole issue: Make sure they don't get pregnant by using contraception every single time they have sex or by not having sex in the first place.

Unfortunately, a lot of young people think of sex, pregnancy and babies as separate items. Heck, some older people do, too. "They're like the people who get excited about planning a wedding but don't think about what it means to be married," Nightingale says.

She continues: "At all ages we could benefit from a deeper understanding of how unplanned pregnancy can affect children. Leaving it out of the conversation is to everyone's detriment."

Comments:genderations@washpost.com.


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