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'Juno' film and Spears story spark a moral debate on teen pregnancy

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Associated Press / December 21, 2007

NEW YORK - In the new hit movie "Juno" and now in real life with Jamie Lynn Spears, 16-year-old girls get pregnant and decide to bear the child rather than opt for abortion. For many social conservatives, it's a challenging story line - they condemn the teen sex but hail the ensuing choice.

"It's a double-edged sword in the Christian community," said Bill Maier, a vice president of the conservative ministry Focus on the Family.

"We should commend girls like Jamie Lynn Spears for making a courageous decision to have the baby. On the other hand, there's nothing glamorous or fun about being an unwed teen mother."

In "Juno," the spunky heroine continues attending high school even as her pregnancy progresses, and she scouts out a married couple who want to adopt the baby.

Spears, star of "Zoey 101" and younger sister of Britney Spears, said she plans to raise her child in her home state of Louisiana.

The news about Spears was greeted with mixed emotions by Leslie Unruh, a Sioux Falls, S.D., activist who has campaigned against abortion and for abstinence-only sex education.

"When I heard the story, I felt sad at first," Unruh said. "Already her life is not the norm of other 16-year-old girls.

"You have a lot of teens who look at those people as role models," she said.

The message from Unruh and others: It's not that simple.

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said both "Juno" and the Spears pregnancy demonstrated to teens that there are costs to engaging in sex. "Too often, sex is presented as having no consequences," she said. "In both of these cases, the girls are pretty much admitting that they made some wrong choices, yet they are acting responsibly now that they're facing the consequences."

The Roman Catholic Church, while firmly opposed to premarital sex, embraces the message that adoption is among the best options if an unmarried teen does become pregnant, said Deirdre McQuade, a spokeswoman for the US Catholic Bishops Conference.

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