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Last month, reports of a 17-year-old Palin spawn’s unplanned pregnancy briefly satiated tabloid hunger for babies-having-babies coverage. The announcement redirected the evergreen “Pregnant Teen” story from Britney sis and new mom Jamie Lynn Spears, also 17, who gave birth to her first child in June. Now, tabs like the National Enquirer (probably more reliable than USA Today!) are again turning their exacting eyes on Spears. “Whoops—-she did it again!” reports the Enquirer:

“Jamie Lynn is about eight weeks pregnant, and she and her mom Lynne are hysterical,” revealed a close source. “Neither of them knows what to do, but for now they’re trying to keep the news from getting out.”

“Too late,” sneers the Enquirer, after reporting that Spears’ “pals are begging her to abort.”

There’s something very strange about outing celebrity pregnancies (many gossip mags have their own “bump watch” to perpetuate the fetal rumormongering). But reporting on the reproductive activities of underage girls—-those who are raised in the shadow of fame, and those who encounter it, suddenly, when their personal lives become political news—-can be downright sinister.

Here’s why: Teen girls, for the most part, aren’t planning to become mothers. Those who do carry a pregnancy to term stand to sacrifice their childhoods, leave school, and abandon their career paths in order to become moms. That choice, of course, is a valid one. But by poaching these girls’ pregnancy stories before they’re able to even make that choice, the tabloid, blog, or mainstream paper that outs a girl’s pregnancy effectively eliminates her option to choose abortion. It’s a funny thing about conservative families, industries, and cultures—-the abortion option looks a hell of a lot better when it’s done in secret, without neighbors, friends, or the entire media knowing about it. Once the pregnancy is revealed, though, you’ve got a baby, a marriage, and a hastily-worded press release on your hands.

The shame machine affects girls in pro-choice environments, too (like Godless, liberal Hollywood). No matter a girl’s situation, if a tabloid gets her pregnancy story out before she does, “pro-choice” politics bend to a more powerful force: PR. (Yeah, adoption’s probably off the table, too).

So here’s the rule on pregnant teen coverage, Enquirer. It’s only a story when she says it’s a baby. Hey, there’s an upside, tabloids: When you don’t shame a teen into having a baby, it’s a lot easier for you to continue to shame her for having the baby.

Photo by Pete Barr-Watson.