COMMENTS: Stop Making Babies

Preventing oneself from getting pregnant by using the pill has a side benefit: the contraceptive drug offers long term prevention against ovarian cancer. NBC's Robert Bazell estimated that, worldwide, 100,000 women have not died of cancer as a result. CBS' in-house physician Jon LaPook pointed out that there is a slight increase of contracting other cancers--of the breast or of the cervix--while taking the pill. But that risk ends when the prescription does; the benefit for the ovaries persists for as long as 30 years.

Getting pregnant, rather than avoiding it, was the topic of a confusing report by Ben Tracy of CBS. Tracy fell into CBS' favorite cliche of combining an undertone of moral panic--usually about out-of-control teenagers--with an overvaluation of pop culture, embodied by illustrating a sociological trend by using fictional characters.

In this instance he speculated that an increase in young motherhood in 2006 might be linked to the 2007 release of the movies Juno and Knocked Up. He did not actually go so far as to claim that the celluloid pregnancy actually has the power retroactively to impregnate teenagers' eggs some two years earlier. The closest he came to suggesting such time travel was the vague "it is unclear whether Hollywood is imitating life or it is the other way around." It is not unclear at all. The latter is a physical impossibility.

Compounding the sloppy thinking in Tracy's report was a switch in terms. Anchor Katie Couric introduced it by saying that a higher fertility rate for teenagers and young women aged 15 to 19--she condescendingly called them "kids"--had resulted in 20,000 additional births in 2006. Tracy himself referred to an increase in pregnancies with no mention of how many resulted in babies. He did point out that the abortion rate is at its lowest since 1981. Isn't the pro-life movement a more plausible explanation for an increase in non-terminated pregnancies than movie studios?


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