MTV Pregnancy Shows Up Abortion Support, Ultrasound Lowers It

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 10, 2011   |   5:33PM   |   Washington, DC

One aspect of a new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute showing Americans and young people believe abortion is morally wrong is drawing additional attention:  the influence of MTV shows on teen pregnancy.

The PPRI poll, based on 3,000 interviews of American adults, finds that Americans, regardless of generation, believe abortion is morally wrong — but young Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 agree with that conclusion as well. The survey found 52 percent of Americans say abortions are morally wrong.

However, the poll also found a negative influence on the pro-life views of respondents concerning the legality of abortion when it came to MTV shows like 16 and Pregnant, Instead of fostering support for pregnant teens who decide to have their baby instead of an abortion, the show sparked more abortion support.

“The study identified and tested a number of hypotheses about independent influences on attitudes about the legality of abortion. Among these, having seen MTV’s reality shows about unmarried pregnant teenagers has a positive impact on support for the legality of abortion,” the polling firm noted.

The actual numbers show 71 percent of “millennials” (ages 18 to 29) have seen a show about pregnancy and PPRI indicates 29 percent of millennials had seen, specifically, either “Teen Mom” or “16 and Pregnant.” Among Americans overall, that number drops to 17 percent. Yet, regardless of age, the study found some 65 percent of those shows’ viewers support abortion — almost 10 percent higher than the support for legalized abortion among the general public.

Slate columnist Jessica Grose responds to the poll by saying the results make it appear that detractors who complain the programs glorify teen pregnancy may be off base.

“Once you frame the abortion issue in the context of a specific woman’s circumstances, whether she’s a personal acquaintance or someone on TV, PRRI found that opinion tends to favor abortion rights. Conversely, once you frame it in terms of a specific fetus’s circumstances—say, by recalling the ultrasound image of a friend’s growing fetus on her Facebook wall—opinion swings the other way,” she said. “For all the pro-choicers out there who are still complain that the fecund high schoolers of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom glamorize teen pregnancy—you should stop complaining. The elevation of the stars these shows might help abortion remain legal for future generations.”

The third season of “Teen Mom,” which will reunite the original stars of the show, premiers July 5.

The survey also found that ultrasound images have a positive impact in reducing support for abortion, as the polling firm noted, “recently seeing an ultrasound has a negative impact on support for the legality of abortion.”

That is important given the number of piece of legislation state lawmakers are approving to allow women a chance to see an ultrasound before an abortion — something abortion centers like Planned Parenthood don’t routinely allow.

A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey from March showed 48 percent of Americans support this law while only 38 percent are opposed to it and 14 percent are unsure.

However, 62% think it is at least somewhat likely that such a law would reduce the number of abortions, including 32% who say it is very likely that the ultrasound bill will reduce in fewer abortions. Just 31 percent of Americans polled say an ultrasound bill like the one in Texas will not likely cut abortions and only 7 percent said it is very unlikely abortions would go down as result.

Women are slightly more supportive than men of both the waiting period and sonogram measures. Most men and women are in general agreement, though, that the measures are likely to reduce the number of abortions.

The results of the two polls give credence to the notion that if Americans see unborn children they will sympathize with them and be more supportive of granting them legal rights to life.

The PPRI survey was conducted between April 22 and May 8, after the congressional push to de-fund Planned Parenthood.