updated 12/21/2007 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 12/21/2007 AT 11:05 AM ET
As Jamie Lynn Spears comes to terms with the facts of life as a pregnant teen, she’s getting some support from an unlikely source: 1980s teen star Lisa Whelchel.
Whelchel, who played the preppy Blair Warner on the sitcom The Facts of Life, has come to Spears’s defense after the 16-year-old Nickelodeon star earned mostly derision following her announcement that she is pregnant.
“I’m very passionate about wanting to speak out on behalf of this young girl,” Whelchel, now 44, tells ABC News. “She is a role model, but it’s not her responsibility to be a role model. That’s so much pressure on a 16-year-old.”
Whelchel, who has two teen daughters of her own and is the author of 12 Christian family books, including 2006’s Taking Care of the Me in Mommy, says Spears should be commended for her decision to keep her baby.
“I’m so proud of her for stepping up and being courageous and taking responsibility for her choices, and I believe she’s being a good role model – a good role model in that situation, to choose to have the baby, and I am supportive of her in that situation,” said Whelchel.
Whelchel, a former Mouseketeer who was Spears’s age when she started on The Facts of Life in 1979, also had words of encouragement for Spears’s mother, Lynne. “We are doing the best we can as moms,” she said. “We really are. I know that she’s doing the best she can as a mom as well.”
She added that she spoke to her two daughters, who are 16 and 15, separately about Spears’s pregnancy. Whelchel said both girls had the same response: “This is a wake-up call, not for the kids, for the parents. This is happening everywhere, every day.”