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'Secret Life of the American Teen' explores teen pregnancy

The ABC Family show is the latest youth-oriented soap to tackle such a story.

January 03, 2009|Yvonne Villarreal

And though it is mentioned on "Secret Life," "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Gossip Girl," abortion is never really an option. The bigger parts of the issue are glossed over, said Wynants, who has discussed plotlines from "Gossip Girl" with her class.

"There needs to be more mention of the three Cs: commitment, contraception and consequences," she said. "What's not fully explored is why these kids find themselves pregnant and what happens to them afterward. The whole reality."

Like a baby's late-night colic attacks. Dealing with postpartum depression. The financial hardship that can sometimes force mothers to apply for federal assistance. And figuring out how to obtain medical insurance. The types of things teens usually never think about.

"One Tree Hill," a show essentially based on teenage pregnancy -- the main characters, Nathan and Lucas, are both the offspring of teenage mothers -- went so far as to have book-smart waitress turned teacher turned singer, Haley James Scott, go into labor as she gave a valedictory speech at her high school graduation ceremony.

But fans of the show never saw her struggle to balance midterms and vaccinations, because when the program returned for its fifth season, it had fast-forwarded through the college years of its characters. Instead of glimpses into all the ear-piercing crying that comes with having a newborn, the audience mostly got a glimpse into the blissful side of motherhood.

And research suggests teens do want the awful truth: Three-quarters say they would like the media to talk more about the consequences of sex, according to a 2007 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Perhaps that's the real secret of the American teenager.

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yvonne.villarreal@latimes.com

"Gossip Girl

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