Local MTV star talks about teen pregnancy

Local MTV star talks about teen pregnancy

November 23rd, 2009 by Joan Garrett McClane in News

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In 2006, there were 435,436 births to mothers ages 15 to 19 in the United States.

Nearly two-thirds of pregnancies among teen mothers under age 18 are unintended.

Teen pregnancy, birth and abortion rates in the U.S. are considerably higher than in most other developed countries.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Children of teen mothers are more likely to:

* Have lower cognitive attainment and proficiency scores at kindergarten

* Exhibit behavior problems

* Have chronic medical conditions

* Rely more heavily on publicly provided health care

* Be incarcerated at some time during adolescence until their early 30s

* Drop out of high school, give birth as a teenager and be unemployed, or underemployed as a young adult

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Discovering she was pregnant at 16 years old was Maci Bookout's worst nightmare.

She didn't get to go to her prom or rush a sorority in college with her friends. She traded playing softball and cheerleading at Ooltewah High School for dirty diapers and late-night feedings.

"There were so many sacrifices I had to make," said Ms. Bookout, now 18. "It was really hard."

But more than a year after giving birth, Ms. Bookout said she doesn't regret the decision to have her baby. Her son, Bentley, is the love of her life, she said, and her choice to be a teen mom has helped land her in the spotlight.

Earlier this year, Ms. Bookout was featured in an episode of MTV's popular show "16 and Pregnant," and she will be starring in the upcoming MTV series "Teen Moms," which will chronicle her challenges as a teen mother.

The new show is scheduled to begin airing Dec. 8.

In the meantime, she is working to promote abstinence at high schools in the area and attending Chattanooga State Community College, where she is studying journalism.

"One decision can put you in the spot I'm in right now, and you would rather take the easy road," she said last week to a group of girls at Notre Dame High School. "And waiting to have sex till your married is the easy road."

Notre Dame principal Perry Storey said Ms. Bookout is a wonderful person to speak about abstinence to high school students. Since she still is young and from the Chattanooga area, it is easy for high schoolers to understand that anyone is at risk of becoming a teen parent, he said.

"Maci is well known in the high school generation because of her appearance on the MTV show. ... Her journey is an excellent example of how a broken vow of abstinence can change the life of a young girl," Mr. Storey said.

Ms. Bookout's speech at Notre Dame was attended by hundreds of high-school girls, most of whom had seen her episode of "16 and Pregnant." The students asked her dozens of questions about her experience being pregnant and about her relationship with her baby's father, which was featured on the show.

"I thought it was really inspiring," said Alex Mullin, a 16-year-old student at Notre Dame. "It is something really hard to go through. It made us think about how we make our decisions. I am thankful I haven't gone through anything like that."

MTV asked Ms. Bookout to be on "16 and Pregnant" after her mother responded to a posting the cable network placed on Craigslist looking for pregnant teens.

Since "16 and Pregnant" aired in June, Ms. Bookout said she often is approached by teenagers who have seen the show. She said she has received many e-mails from teen parents who were moved by her story.

"People at the mall come up to me and ask for autographs," she said.

Along with speaking to high schoolers, Ms. Bookout said she has plans to write a book about teenage motherhood called "Bullet Proof." She said MTV is working to help her find a publisher.

She said she wants her story to encourage other teen mothers to be independent and take responsibility for their actions as well as to be a warning to girls who are thinking about being sexually active before marriage.

"A child is a blessing from God ... and I will never regret the decision to have my baby," she said. "But waiting to have sex should be very important. I did the show so girls would protect themselves."