Teen Mom: 'They Treat Me Like I'm a Celebrity'

Teenage and Pregnant
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Move over Jamie Lynn Spears and Bristol Palin. It's one thing to be a celebrity who gets pregnant at 17; it's another thing to become a celebrity for doing just that.

The visibility of teenage moms has exploded in pop culture. Lifetime's "The Pregnancy Pact," the Fox hit "Glee" and "The Secret Life of an American Teenager" have explored the subject.

But, without a doubt, today's most notorious young mothers are the stars of MTV's hit reality series "Teen Mom." The popular documentary-style show chronicles the highs and often trashy lows of teenage girls dealing with the fallout of diapers, dead beat "baby daddies" and demanding grandparents.

Pick up any tabloid -- Us Weekly, OK! magazine, Life & Style, In Touch -- and these high school moms are elevated to near-celebrity status. Even "Saturday Night Live" has poked fun at the trend.

In a skit spoofing MTV as "Maternity Television," actress Scarlett Johansson plays a 16-year-old girl partying her way through delivery, screaming, "I'm rich, I'm beautiful and I'm fully dilated."

While teen pregnancy may be exploding on TV, teen birth rates decreased 6 percent between 2008 and 2009, reaching a new low, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

While that's good news, the United States still has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world; twice as high as the U.K., and three times as high as Canada. One in six U.S. girls will become a teen mother, and the annual public cost of teen childbearing is estimated at $9.1 billion.

"There is no fear and shame in teen pregnancy anymore," says Michelle Hankins, who runs a Young Moms support group in Rome, Ga. "Seeing all these teen moms in the media, it makes them less fearful. It's desensitized them, there's just an immunity to the shock value of it."

Georgia teen pregnancy rates are 22 percent higher than the national average.

Hankins started the support group because she believed her community was in dire need. More than 40 teens gather twice a month. They receive sex and health education, as well as baby-care tips and supplies.

"There's, like, probably 20-plus girls at my high school that's pregnant," said Eryn Rampley, 17, who is seven months pregnant.

Victoria Burnette, 19 and nine months pregnant, said, "I wasn't using anything, like, protection or anything, birth control, condoms, anything like that."

At 15, Corinna Perussquia is the youngest in the group. When she got pregnant in the summer, she said, her reaction was shock and disbelief.

"This can't be. I didn't believe it at first," Corinna said. "I didn't think it would happen to me. I just, I never thought."

She was too scared to tell her mom for months, and the emotion is still raw.

"I never wanted that, like, to get pregnant," Corinna said, in tears. "And I always wanted to go to college and have a good life, you know. But now, like, I have doubts about that."

Does Media Spotlight Encourage Teens to Become Moms?

Like many of the girls in the group, Corinna follows "Teen Mom" on TV and in the gossip magazines. Although the series has been touted as a cautionary tale, Corinna did not interpret it that way.

"When I used to watch it before I got pregnant, I did not think too much of it," she said. "It was fun to watch. I never thought it would be like a lesson or anything. I just watched it for entertainment."

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