Like a virgin

Missed the first bit of MTV's latest installment of Choose or Lose: "Sex, Votes, & Higher Power" Wednesday night, but I caught most of it. I must admit, the segment dealing with abortion wasn't nearly as bad as I feared. Host Christina Aguilera, wearing a pink button down sweater over a not-too-short (for her) periwinkle blue dress and less makeup than usual, interviewed two girls who got pregnant out of wedlock.

The first young woman, Melissa, had been going out with an older guy who wanted to get married and have children. She wasn't ready for that, so she dumped him and went for someone her age (17) and they, as the kids say, got it on. She says they used protection most of the time but it's that two percent that gets you. Now, before I go into the story of the second girl, form an opinion based on the facts presented so far: Did Melissa choose to deliver the baby?

The second girl, Rebecca, was 20 when she found out, on Christmas Eve, that she was with child. The night of conception she was very drunk but the other party did happen to be her boyfriend. Her first instinct, she admits, was to have the child and give it up for adoption. But both of her parents counseled abortion, and she decided that having a child would be a real hassle. So it was off to the abortionist for her.

Rebecca admits that the only time she felt "a little bit of regret" was on her would-have-been due date, but the regret was not so daunting that, if she had it to do over, she would behave differently. As for pro-life folk, she argues that "a lot of people who are fairly religious think it is more important to think about a fetus and its rights then it is to think about a living breathing human being," namely her. She would never vote for a pro-life pol and she tells the audience that "not voting is the same as voting for someone who wants to strip you of your rights."

Back to Melissa. She exercised her right to choose by having the child. She explains that she believes all babies have a purpose in life: "God has a purpose for them." She says this after her boyfriend bailed on her and she spent many years struggling to keep her and her son afloat. She explains that, for some time, "my social life was at work." But the toil did have some rewards. Namely, "my son is awesome."

I would quibble a bit with how MTV narrated it and used experts to frame the issue. It was annoying, for instance, to hear that Congress had banned a procedure that "some people call partial birth abortion," but overall -- given time constraints and whatnot -- not bad.

This evenhanded treatment appears to be part of a conscious shift on MTV's part, to reach out to young conservative and religious consumers. The article advertising the show on the MTV website may make the mistake of referring to the Heritage Foundation as the Heritage Institute but it gives more space to pro-life and pro-abstinence education arguments than they had time to fit into the segment.

Other recent instances of The Shift: MTV Books published Marty Beckerman's raunchy anti-sex book Generation S.L.U.T. (when I interviewed him for a story that never quite came together, Beckerman rejected that characterization, though I doubt people who read the book will disagree with me) and the website hired Peter Olasky (yes, son of Marvin) to do election coverage.

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