University of Minnesota students got a taste of reality Wednesday — reality TV stars, that is.
“Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” stars Catelynn Lowell and Tyler Baltierra visited campus to discuss unplanned pregnancy and adoption.
Students for Human Life, an anti-abortion campus group, invited the couple to present, President John Capistrant said.
An overwhelmingly female audience gathered in the Bell Museum of Natural History Auditorium on Wednesday night to hear the couple speak.
Unplanned pregnancy and adoption aren’t common among Minnesota college students, according to Boynton Health Service’s 2012 College Student Health Survey Report.
Only about 2.3 percent of surveyed students from 10 Minnesota higher education institutions had unplanned pregnancies in the year before the survey. Of those, less than 1 percent resulted in adoption.
“I wish that number was a lot higher,” said Nathan Hastings, a member of Students for Human Life. He said he hoped people will learn more about adoption and feel more comfortable pursuing it through the event.
While nearly 40 percent of the unplanned pregnancies resulted in birth and parenting, 17 percent resulted in abortion. A quarter of respondents were still pregnant at the time of the survey.
Kelsey Pexa, co-chair of the University Pro-Choice Coalition, said she was glad Lowell and Baltierra were presenting but added she hoped the event didn’t suggest religious people are pro-life while non-religious people are pro-choice.
Promoting open adoption
After 16-year-old Lowell became pregnant, she and Baltierra decided to put their daughter Carly up for open adoption through Bethany Christian Services, said Claudia Fletcher, executive director of Bethany Christian Services Minnesota.
Open adoption, which Fletcher said Bethany promotes, means birth parents are able to stay in contact with their adopted children and be involved in their lives, removing some of the secrecy that has traditionally surrounded adoption.
When MTV sent out a mass email to adoption agencies looking for a 16-year-old in her third trimester, Lowell said her and Baltierra’s situation fit the bill.
Lowell said she decided to go on the show and continues to go on tours like these to demonstrate what adoption looks like in the present day.
“We’re not just crazy birth moms who hide in bushes trying to steal our children back,” she said. “If I change some lives, that’s all that matters.”
Lowell and Baltierra, who are now 21 and have been together almost nine years, said women who have unplanned pregnancies should get involved with an adoption agency, even if they aren’t choosing adoption. Agencies can provide resources like counseling and safe-sleep classes, Lowell said.
Bethany, the largest adoption agency in the nation, is sponsoring Baltierra and Lowell’s April tour. Besides the University, the couple visited St. Cloud State University, Fletcher said. This is their second year of tours.
“Because of their popularity,” she said, “they can get the message out that we’ve been trying to put out for a long time.”
Fletcher — who has adopted 12 children with her husband — said adoption today is different than in the past.
“Adoptive families really are prepared to have a strong relationship with the birth parents of their children,” she said. “The kids grow up just really not knowing that there’s anything that different.”