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James Webb hopes that viewers who tune in to "Birth Moms" on TLC don't judge the unwed expectant mothers too harshly.

"I hope they feel some compassion for what's going on," said Webb, who's the executive director of The Adoption Center in Orem.

"Birth Moms" (Thursday, May 17, 11 p.m. on TLC) follows three young women — Lindsay Batts, Kandice Machado and Taylor Walters —who are living at The Adoption Center and struggling with their decisions to give up their babies.

You can't entirely escape the idea that, presented with the opportunity, the expectant mothers jumped at a chance to be on TV. They certainly wouldn't be the first to do so.

But it's also possible some good could come out of "Birth Moms," if it encourages other young women to take a different path.

Their participation "was completely voluntary," Webb said. "They wanted to share their stories to help other moms."

In the hour-long special, we see the pregnant women interact with each other — both as a support system and as antagonists. "There's lots of drama," Webb said, adding that it wasn't created just for the cameras.

We meet prospective adoptive parents and watch the birth mothers as they move toward a decision about whether they will give their babies up for adoption.

"You don't have any idea what these girls have been through," said Webb, who's been in the adoption business for 17 years and has seven daughters of his own — five of whom are adopted. "And here they are doing this amazing thing — giving a gift of life to a child and a family. And it's not an easy thing. I can't even imagine how challenging it is. I've never once told one of these moms, 'I know how hard it is.' Because I don't."

The Adoption Center works with between 150 and 200 birth mothers from across the country annually. Some choose to stay where they live; others choose to come to the center in Orem. About 100 give their babies up for adoption.

The youngest mom Webb has worked with was 11; the oldest was in her mid-40s. Most are in their 20s to early 30s.

"They're from every walk of life, from women in master's degree programs to call girls to exotic dancers to young schoolgirls," Webb said. "We've worked with married couples that see this as their best option."

Officially, this isn't a pilot. But TLC has a history of taking successful specials and turning them into a series. So, depending on what the ratings are for "Birth Moms," there could be more episodes.

"The thing that I hope people see," Webb said, "is no matter where [the birth moms] come from, no matter how you may judge them for the choices they have made in their lives, they're doing a really, really good thing."

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.