Jamie Lynn Spears, the law, and missplaced shame
--Lisa Bloom, 360 Contributor
Jamie Lynn Spears, who hails from Louisiana, is pregnant at 16. Louisiana is an abstinence-only education state, teaching teens only chastity, not birth control. We know that abstinence-only jurisdictions have the highest rates of teen pregnancy. Girls with older boyfriends are also statistically significantly more likely to be sexually active, to not use birth control, and to experience unintended pregnancies.
Can she be fired from her job as star of a Nickelodeon program? In my opinion that would be unlawful pregnancy discrimination. Actress Hunter Tylo successfully sued the producers of "Melrose Place" when they fired her for being pregnant. She was represented by my mother, feminist attorney Gloria Allred, who argued that no woman should have to choose between her baby and her job.
The jury agreed, awarding Tylo over $5 million. The same argument and the same law applies to Jamie Spears.
Could Spears' 18 year-old boyfriend be prosecuted for statutory rape? If the sex occurred in California, the answer is yes. Sex between a person over 18 and a person under 18 is a misdemeanor there, increasing to a felony when the age gap widens. If the sex occurred elsewhere, it would depend on state law. In any event, it would be Spears' boyfriend, not Spears herself, who may have committed a crime.
Nevertheless, the shaming and outcry against Spears has begun, ("THE SPEARS FAMILY SHAME," screams the New York Post headline this morning) as if she became pregnant all by herself, and notwithstanding the fact that nearly 50% of 16 year olds have had sexual intercourse.
Many of the sanctimonious pundits criticizing her probably were sexually active at her age, male athletes who father children out of wedlock, male celebs who don't even visit their own children, are not shamed.
In 2007, sexual shame is still reserved for girls. The same pundits who oppose educating teens about birth control and who oppose abortion rights shame this teenaged girl, who has made the choice to keep her baby. That, my friends, is a crying shame.