Watching "16 And Pregnant" Makes Americans More Likely To Support Abortion, Study Says

Helping to influence opinions about abortion?

I’ve admitted it before and I’ll admit it again:  I am a 16 And Pregnant and Teen Mom junkie.  I can’t help myself.  It started when I fell in love with Tyler and Catelynn, the only couple to put their baby up for adoption during the first season.

But it isn’t just trashy, reality show fodder.  A new report released from the Public Religion Research Institute says watching shows like this is influencing young Americans’ opinions about abortion.

As reported on Slate.com, researchers surveyed more than 3,000 American adults of all generations.  In addition to asking their subjects the usual questions about race, religion and so forth, researchers turned up four more unique factors they say influence people’s feelings about abortion:

1)  Whether the person has a “situationalist” or “principle-based” approach to morality, 2) Whether they know  someone who has had an abortion, 3) Whether they’ve watched TV shows like MTV’s 16 And Pregnant, and 4) Whether they’ve recently seen ultrasound images.

Here is what they found out:

On the first point, the researchers divided people into two main categories: Those who believe that what is right or wrong depends on the situation, and those who believe that unbending principles dictate whether something is right or wrong. Most of the people in the first camp think abortion should be legal in most cases. A plurality of people in the second camp think it shouldn’t. On the second and third point, the study found that people who are friends with someone who’s had an abortion or who have watched a marathon session of Teen Mom are more supportive of abortion being legal in all or most cases.

According to the study, young people are significantly more likely to decide what’s right or wrong on a case-by-case basis as opposed to some sort of moral code they strictly adhere to.  But, as Slate.com writer, Jessica Gross points out, a study last year ironically shows college students are really bad at empathizing.  In fact, the study says college students today are almost half as likely to care about somebody going through tough times than students in the seventies.

Gross makes the leap to say that if Millennials truly are bad at empathizing then they’re less likely to support abortion rights unless they’ve had a personal experience – including, watching teen shows about pregnancy , “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.”

Interesting take.  I’m not sure I buy it.  I’m mostly shocked that Millennials are so crappy at empathizing and that they need to see a friend’s ultrasound or watch reality shows before they form an opinion on abortion.  Or am I being too hard on young people?  I guess friends and TV would play a huge factor in how I feel about the world if I weren’t raised in a particular religion.  What do you think?  Do you watch those MTV shows?  Do you think watching the struggles of teen moms would make young people more likely to support abortion?

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