In 1985 a little known New Yorker released a deliberately controversial pop song. Her record company taunted the public with salacious content to generate scandal and huge sales. Madonna’s ‘Papa don’t preach’ became a global number one, including fifteen weeks as the USA’s most popular song.
Religious groups were outraged by glorification of teen pregnancy, while Right to Life groups celebrated the anti-abortion sentiment with lyric, ‘I’m keeping my baby’ apparently illustrating their pro-life views. There were fears the song undermined positive safe sex and birth control messages. Madonna advocated immorality, according to the Catholic Church whose doctrine forbids intercourse outside marriage, bans the use of birth control and prohibits abortion.
Alfred Moran, New York City Executive Director of Planned Parenthood, spoke in an interview with the New York Times in September 1986. He recalled clinics filled with girls wearing Madonna’s style. Moran went on to explain, “she has more impact on young teenagers than any other single entertainer since the Beatles. That’s what makes this particular song so destructive.” Planned Parenthood sent a ‘critical memo’ to radio and television stations, imploring them to ”think carefully about playing this song to young audiences.”
Times have changed in the 28 years since Madonna’s song about a daughter ‘in trouble deep’ asking for her father’s assistance. While the sounds of popular music may have changed, the chorus of societal attitudes toward teen pregnancy is not as progressive.
An announcement of a pregnancy is usually met with congratulations, unless you are un-married, un-employed and under aged. Acknowledging pregnancy in teens is often met with a sense of impending doom. Challenges faced by young mothers are compounded by experiences of judgmental or negative public opinions. It takes a village to raise a child, yet for many young parents feelings of isolation, disconnection and inferiority are common.