Surprisingly, it’s not due to the horribly misguided abstinence education nonsense. In fact, I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around this one.

As summer vacation begins, 17 girls at Gloucester High School are expecting babies–more than four times the number of pregnancies the 1,200-student school had last year. Some adults dismissed the statistic as a blip. Others blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing young unwed mothers. But principal Joseph Sullivan knows at least part of the reason there’s been such a spike in teen pregnancies in this Massachusetts fishing town. School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school clinic to find out if they were pregnant. By May, several students had returned multiple times to get pregnancy tests, and on hearing the results, “some girls seemed more upset when they weren’t pregnant than when they were,” Sullivan says. All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. “We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy,” the principal says, shaking his head.

Really? Assuming this isn’t some bizarre error of mis-reporting, this is clearly not a failure of contraception, but what I can only assume is a failure of our culture. Here’s why:

But Amanda Ireland, who graduated from Gloucester High on June 8, thinks she knows why these girls wanted to get pregnant. Ireland, 18, gave birth her freshman year and says some of her now pregnant schoolmates regularly approached her in the hall, remarking how lucky she was to have a baby. “They’re so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally,” Ireland says. “I try to explain it’s hard to feel loved when an infant is screaming to be fed at 3 a.m.”

Gloucester’s elected school committee plans to vote later this summer on whether to provide contraceptives. But that won’t do much to solve the issue of teens wanting to get pregnant. Says rising junior Kacia Lowe, who is a classmate of the pactmakers’: “No one’s offered them a better option.” And better options may be a tall order in a city so uncertain of its future.

I have to admit I’m bewildered. What has gone so terribly wrong in this town that young girls think the only thing of value they can do is reproduce? Or that having a baby is the only way they can be loved? Maybe it’s just my prejudice that teen pregnancy represents a catastrophic mistake on the part of all involved, but to me this is a frightening sign of cultural regression.

Recently my friend at feminist underground wrote about how far we’ve come from Jane Austen’s time. Discussing the role of marriage in her life she quoted from Pride in Prejudice:

Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and must be their pleasantest preservative from want,

I wouldn’t think it would be possible for things to degrade in this country to a point lower than what Austen describes in this passage – that women could only survive and succeed by attaching themselves to a man. But for some reason, in Gloucester, it seems that they have, when young women feel the only way they can have hope for the future is through having a baby, to the point of seeking out the homeless for sex. I feel like something has gone terribly wrong.

It seems to me the school is failing, not to provide contraception or reproductive education for these women, but to give them an education period. I am ignorant as to how exactly they’ve managed to create this culture but to me it sounds like a terrible throwback. Except rather than marriage being the only way to make it in the world, they’ve gotten the idea their only option is motherhood.

So, what the hell is going on in Gloucester? From the wiki it doesn’t sound as though they’re racked with poverty, or a particularly ailing town. What reason is there for this attitude?

Comments

  1. #1 e
    June 20, 2008

    We had a similar boom this year – and I teach at a fairly average suburban high school in the Midwest. A lot of the girls said they’d gotten pregnant on purpose – to keep the boyfriend around. Of course that didn’t exactly work out as planned for the majority of them. It’s the same idea of wanting unconditional love, someone to control – and they have a very romanticized notion of what it will be like to have a baby. They really do think it’s all about finding cute outfits and cuddling. You really wonder about their home lives – are they not getting love and attention?

    Of course there’s also a story from my family doctor – warning, this will contain actual anatomical terms, so abstinence-only proponents should stop reading here.
    A teen girl came in w/ her mom complaining of nausea. He did a quick exam of her abdomen – said he could tell instantly she was pregnant. So he asked her if there was any chance she could be pregnant – she said no. He asked her again a few minutes later if she’d ever had sex – she said no. He dismissed the mom from the room and said, “Okay. Let’s try this route. Has anyone ever put their penis into you vagina?” She said, “Oh yeah, we do that sometimes.” Bingo. The kid had managed to pass health class, but clearly had not picked up on the entire curriculum…

  2. #2 rpsms
    June 20, 2008

    I can’t speak to the obvious irrationality and lack of foresight, but I do know that babies seem to be “contagious” for some women.

    I joked about it with my wife when we were younger, and she thought it was the most ridiculous statement ever, but I have observed and she has confessed a much stronger interest in having more babies when exposed to them for (short) periods of time. Longer periods of exposure leads to a temporarily increased immunity to such feelings.

  3. #3 Interrobang
    June 20, 2008

    I was given to understand that Gloucester was one of those fishing towns where fishing is so ingrained in the culture, anything else might as well not exist, and I can certainly understand cultural malaise and a sense of hopelessness setting in now that the fishing industry is basically collapsing. A lot of the rest of the industry there seems to be tourism, which is extremely seasonal — towns whose population doubles in the summer tend to have hard winters. I’m also given to understand that it’s not a tremendously rich area — median household income is $47722, slightly under the national average, for what it’s worth.

    What I’d like to know is, who’s not teaching these girls that girls are capable and competent and don’t have to have lives that depend entirely on whether or not they can produce babies? (On the other hand, who is teaching them that their self-worth as people, as women, depends on their being mothers?) And where is that pernicious belief that having a baby is a good way to be loved because a baby will love you unconditionally coming from? I know it’s out there in the culture, but I thought we’d sort of gotten rid of that by now.

    Speaking as a feminist, this feels like a failure of feminism to me, or probably more accurately, a success story for the feminist backlash. Nice company those anti-feminists keep, huh?

  4. #4 MarkH
    June 20, 2008

    I love it! A laffer curve for baby exposure. And e you’re freaking me out.

  5. #5 PalMD
    June 20, 2008

    Oh, Mark, the stories I could tell…

  6. #6 Jessica
    June 20, 2008

    I’m sorry, but how exactly is it the school’s fault? Most teachers I know are a little too busy trying to prepare kids for the ridiculous amount of standardized tests they have to take, and are extremely hampered in what they can say to kids or do for them. Why is it that practically no one is asking “Where are these girl’s parents?” Sure, blame it on Juno, on Jamie Lynn Spears or on the schools, but not the parents? I agree that something seems to be very wrong with these girls thinking a baby is the way to get love, but I hardly think Juno is to blame for that.

  7. #7 habladora
    June 20, 2008

    I worked for 2 years in a public school that had a high rate of teenage pregnancies. As in a lot of schools, the sex education that the students got focused largely on abstinence until marriage pledges, but that wasn’t the only problem. The administration ‘strongly encouraged’ any pregnant girl to ‘be home schooled’ or ‘home tutored’ – allegedly so that other girls wouldn’t be tempted to follow suit. It was a dumb policy that hid the reality of what a pain-in-the…. well, everything that real pregnancy is, as well as closing the door on these girls and encouraging them to unnecessarily give up their education.

    Worse, a councilor friend of mine wanted to lead a group for pregnant girls that would give them information on everything from educational opportunities to baby nutrition. She even offered to lead the group after school, when other students wouldn’t be around. The administration forbid her to use school grounds for any such group.

    As far as Gloucester goes, who knows – sometimes kids do stupid things that significantly complicate their lives. But I don’t think that we’re helping them make good decisions by trying to withhold real sex education and using shaming as our main prevention tactic.

  8. #8 TheNerd
    June 20, 2008

    This “early mothering” concept isn’t new, dispite all the recent publicity. I only wish it WERE new.

    About 8 years ago when I was still a teenager myself, I had an odd discussion with my friend’s 14-year-old cousin (who is a daughter of religiously strict). She was looking at the sex-tips part of a Cosmo magazine at the library (something she never got to enjoy while overseas), and talking about pregnancy. It seems the thing she wanted most in the world was a baby.

    What struck me as odd is that she was associating pregnancy with sex, not with motherhood. After a few careful questions, I realized that she was using potential procreation as an “excuse” to have sex. She had been raised to believe that sex=motherhood, and you can’t have one without the other. What she wanted was the freedom to have a physical relationship with a boy, but she just didn’t know how to accomplish that while avoiding pregnancy.

    I as quite shocked by that revelation. I never saw her again, so I don’t know if my meager request that she “not grow up too fast” had any impact on her. But it left a searing image in my mind of what happens when people don’t know the medical facts about sex.

  9. #9 TheNerd
    June 20, 2008

    That should read “who is a daughter of religiously strict MISSIONARIES”. Sorry for the ommission.

  10. #10 Julie Stahlhut
    June 20, 2008

    My first question: Has anyone considered the possibility that these girls are having us on? Y’know, like the Samoan girls pranking Margaret Mead? It would be easy enough — start with some of the girls being questioned by various authority figures, then comparing notes, and someone comes up with the idea “Hey, let’s tell them we all got together and decided to do this on purpose!”

    That said: How do movies like “Knocked Up” or “Juno” “glamorize” pregnancy? I don’t see any way in which these films suggest that a teenaged girl will become rich, beautiful, popular, or famous by becoming pregnant.

  11. #11 Christie
    June 20, 2008

    I have family in a small town in Colorado, where only half the senior class graduates high school each year and teen planned pregnancy is the norm. It is a very liberal community with a lot of services — which is what the girls tap into. They get pregnant, quit school, move out of their parents’ homes into subsidized apartments, and get WIC and welfare. My admittedly only marginally informed opinion is that it’s due to a perceived lack of options. Few complete high school, even fewer go to college, and those that do never return to show the community what’s possible on the other side of the ridge (my brother was one of those.) So being a successful adult to these kids means being a parent with their own place — and that’s a goal they can reach without much effort.

    Glouchester’s student population is nearly four times that of my siblings’ school, though, so I don’t know if the problem scales.

  12. #12 MarkH
    June 20, 2008

    Jessica, I consider schools as the antidote to parental idiocy. The parents are out of school, with little ability for us to have much social influence them. These young women are in school, and I would hope that one of their objectives is encouraging their students in thinking about doing something with their lives other that occupying their womb with fatherless children. You know, like saying to them that they can be anything, do anything etc., if they just study hard and not get pregnant as a teenager.

  13. #13 Fire
    June 20, 2008

    I wonder why it is the abstenence policy being blamed. The article clearly states these girls had a pregnacy pact. This means that even if conterception had been avaiable they would not have used it. The goal was to have a child so clearly conterception was not a priority. I do hope that both parnets must take responsibility for the children they bring into the world. I am not saying that these kids should get married that would likely make the situation worse. However the fathers should have to provide for their offspring and help raise them. Only when the males must share equally in the task of raising these children will they perhaps start acting responsible. It does take two people to have a child. Why were the young men not using condoms? Conterception aside it is simply irresponsible to not use them give the high STD rate in this country and the greater danger of AIDS.

    Seriously a lot of young men think it is cool to have a dozen women having their babies. However they call them ” My baby’s Mama” But they are not always the Father they should be. At best they are sperm donors and they simply walk away. Only when they pay and are seen to pay will things change.

    Again it is clear that this town had a group of young people who got lost in the idea that having a child makes you a grown up. Well I am not sure it does but they will now have little choice but to grown up unless the next generation will suffer a similar fate.

    Repsectfully

    Fire

  14. #14 Rogue Epidemiologist
    June 20, 2008

    Babies as a font of unconditional love? I have some words for these girls (who clearly did not think their cunning plan through). Think about how much you hate your parents now. Mutiply that by ten. That is exactly how much your children will hate you, too. Thanks for the struggling poverty. Gahh. Some people just need to be expelled from the herd.

  15. #15 e
    June 20, 2008

    Sorry to freak you out Mark – there’s a lot more stories where that one came from, unfortunately! I’ve been teaching 10 years and have heard a lot of ‘em.
    Like the girl who told me she was pregnant, and planning to keep the baby because “I mean, it’s not as if babies are expensive. The clothes are so small they can’t cost that much, and there are always coupons for diapers in the Sunday paper.” (Having just had a baby myself, I tried to gently clue her in to the financial realities.)

    I do agree that schools should be a place for building hope – letting these kids know that they have a future outside of making babies – but part of it has to come from families/society too. I can motivate the heck out of ‘em for 51 minutes a day, but they spend a lot more time out of my classroom than in it.

  16. #16 daedalus2u
    June 20, 2008

    I think it is a product of our culture. I think it is what people do when they are desperate, they do desperate things. 15 year olds are still children. 150 years ago they wouldn’t have been able to get pregnant because they wouldn’t have gone through menarche yet. In 1850 the average of menarche was nearly 17. Now it is what, 12?

    I think the strategy of the right is to keep people desperate. When they are desperate they are easier to control, they don’t have time or energy to think, they just latch onto the sound bites.

    Who are Conservatives counting on to fight the war in Iraq that McCain is prepared to continue for the next 100 years? Not the children of stable families where both parents went to college have good jobs and can send their children to school. Not the children of the wealthy. Not the children of people who have other options.

    Yes, I do have a nitric oxide explanation for these things, but I will spare everyone.

  17. #17 Nico
    June 20, 2008

    In high school, a cluster of my friends opted to drop out and get pregnant. To them it was a win/win situation, get welfare, no school, hey!

    And part of it was the subtle, but repeated message from teachers to us ( the low income crowd) that the best we should hope for is a good husband and a life of having babies, while they groomed the higher income kids for university and academia.

    I refused to follow this message, and spoke of wanting more than to have babies, and would rather a career and found myself more than a few times in the counsellor’s office at their request asking if I was confused or thinking realistically.

    It was also a small, somewhat economically depressed city and boredom kicks in, and a nice dose of religious fundametalism for laughs.

    My ex classmates are still there, and in those low income service jobs. I’m on my second year of a degree.

    ( we had the highest teen pregnancy rate at one point, for all of the province.)

  18. #18 Excluded Layman
    June 21, 2008

    @Fire:
    “I wonder why it is the [abstinence] policy being blamed. . . . Why were the young men not using condoms?”

    They’re Catholic. Well, that might not be it, but Gloucester is called a “Catholic enclave”, so it would not be surprising.

    The article does say, “Even with national data showing a 3% rise in teen pregnancies in 2006—the first increase in 15 years—Gloucester isn’t sure it wants to provide easier access to birth control.” That atmosphere and the predominant denomination would make it much more difficult to work up the courage to buy condoms, if nothing else. It would also make it fairly likely that a sizable chunk of the parents give their sons the birds-and-bees talk using an abstinence-only template.

    If they are being taught abstinence-only sex ed–officially or not–I bet they don’t know where or how to get condoms, don’t think to keep them handy, and most importantly, have been told repeatedly how effectively worthless they are.

  19. #19 daedalus2u
    June 21, 2008

    I wonder how much similarity there is in this type of action by young women to school violence by young men and is it a gender different response to feelings of desperation and worthlessness?

  20. #20 MarkH
    June 21, 2008

    I’m irritated but not surprised to hear stories like yours Nico. That schools teach hopelessness or low expectations from life is upsetting. America is about social mobility, not stagnation. I suspect a similar phenomenon is at work here.

  21. #21 Anonymous
    June 21, 2008

    As a Bostonian, I have to say that the trouble with a lot of these towns around Boston is that they have two very distinct groups of people in them. You have the locals, or townies, or whatever, who live and work there and are probably struggling to get by. And on the other side of things you have the people who commute into Boston, and pull in six figures. A lot of times there is very little in between. And there are pitfalls to both ends of the spectrum. Couple it with a strong religious leaning, and you have a recipe for disaster.

  22. #22 Ktesibios
    June 21, 2008

    I noticed a very similar phenomenon to what Nico speaks of when I was in high school back in the early ’70s.

    Basically, everyone was divided into three groups, which were taught different things:

    If you were in the “college prep” program, what you were really being taught was to go to the office at 8 AM, spend the morning covering pieces of paper with writing, eat lunch, spend the afternoon covering pieces of paper with writing, take more pieces of paper (to be covered with writing) home with you and repeat the whole process the next day.

    If you were in the “industrial arts” program, it was the same, except that you were being taught to go to the plant at 8 AM because you were officially classified as too stupid for the office.

    There was a third group (called the “sod squad” among the students) who were essentially being prepared to have their own businesses doing things like landscaping or plumbing or auto repair for the dweebs who had been through the “college prep” program.

    Just in case none of those three options worked out, the gym teachers made sure we were taught how to march in formation.

    Now, in our little bedroom suburb, who do you think wound up assigned to options 2 or 3? Well, I’ll tell ya- it was the children of the townies- the people who actually worked in our town, usually at blue-collar jobs, not the children of the people who rode the train to offices in the city every day. If you told me what part of town you lived in and what your parents did, I could predict with great confidence which academic program you would be in.

    That educational system was truly a monumuent to yuppie-scum snobbery.

  23. #23 HCN
    June 21, 2008

    They should have filmed this reality show in Gloucester, not in Idaho:
    http://www.nbc.com/The_Baby_Borrowers/about/

    (actually, my teenage boys think it looks like a fun show to watch… one likes reality family shows like “Little People, Big World” and “Jon and Kate, Plus 8″, and the other actually teaches swimming to kids from toddlers to teenagers).

  24. #24 felizkrilll
    June 22, 2008

    TAM 6 Call for papers: James Randi – little blaspheming atheist fraud and his army of robot zombie followers:

    visit:

    http://www.disclose.tv/forum/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=94

    to see how we stopped Randi’s MD paranormal challenge….

    and FINALLY:

    guess what is inside angel’s ENVELOPE:

    ___________________
    |
    | RANDI’S HEAD
    |
    ___________________

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YXHGGfeVzI

  25. #25 mandrake
    June 22, 2008

    felizkrilll:
    Mr. Mabus, your writing style is too obvious to hide behind a pseudonym.
    Please get help.

  26. #26 Daniel R
    June 23, 2008

    Pregnancy boom? Oh sh…, they however told me that they took the pill. But I had nice holidays there, last year.

  27. #27 Denice Walter
    June 23, 2008

    Mark,I like your idea of a “failure of our culture” being the cause of the problem. I work with international students, and I’m not sure whether the “international” or the “student” aspect is what is most operative , but there is no pregenancy problem.The young women are upwardly mobile(like their parents)however,I believe,there is often a transparently veiled rejection of more traditional roles for women, which is an important factor in motivating them.

  28. #28 Dean
    June 23, 2008

    Apparently this entire story is now unraveling. A news story states that the principal who made the first assertion will not be attending a city meeting on the subject. Here is a link to the article.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1110ap_pregnancy_pact.html

    A short excerpt from the short article (Kirk is the mayor)

    Kirk said she and the superintendent have been in close touch with the principal. She reiterated they had no independent information to back up his assertion that some of the 17 girls who became pregnant this year had planned to become pregnant and raise their babies together.

  29. #29 Jesse
    June 23, 2008

    They’re Catholic. Well, that might not be it, but Gloucester is called a “Catholic enclave”, so it would not be surprising.

    Can’t attest to the theory that Catholocism (and possibly no BC?) is at root here but my understanding is that Glouchester typically has ~4-5 high school pregnancies/year.

    Which means that the figure of 17 girls may actually be closer to a dozen that were in the ‘pact’.

  30. #30 C
    June 23, 2008

    I was born and raised in Gloucester. I don’t know what’s going on there now, but when I was in the 8th grade at O’Malley Middle school (late 80′s) and then later in high school we received plenty of sex ed. The teachers definitely tried to get us to consider abstinence as the “safest” form of contraception (of course), but we got plenty of info on all of the various types of birth control. Nothing was held back, and there were no religious overtones.

  31. #31 meritree
    June 24, 2008

    I wish I could “chat” with those young women; I had my son at 18, unplanned. Now at 50 – I’m able to look back on the mixed messages of teen pregnancy. Being pregnant gave me more respect than derision. Not that I’m happy I thought that then, but it was mirrored and reinforced by relatives (you have a lovely baby – he smells so nice, he’s our first grandson, etc.) Before the pregnancy, I was confused, angry at parents who were going through marital difficulties, awkward and semi-popular, grades that went from D to A, etc. In other words, at a tipping point where I could have gone either way.

    With positive reinforcement one could tip in the positive direction (encourage women to be independent, even as children – provide them with OPPORTUNITY to turn likes into goals)– OR tip the other way, into the negative –

    I was told that even if I didn’t accomplish anything – I was a good mother. That really offended me. My son is now 30, I am now 50. Those women will feel that they have a special connection with their children – that they will lavish love on them that they feel they never experienced. Translation – as an adult that will turn into an overexpectant reliance on their child to provide them with love bordering on reverance. The relation between those mothers and children will not easily allow other family – men partners, etc. to be part of this bond. Thus, the reasons are faulty from the start.

    As for me, my son. I am now studying oceanography after (I kid you not – false starts at nearly 10 different careers – none that I chose, but fell into through low wage temping jobs, etc.) Finally I CHOSE what I wanted to do.

    My son, fortunately did turn with a college degree in molecular biology, and is now an actor. Because that initial bond between “teen mother” and baby boy was so great ; it was difficult for me to allow a partner to co-parent. It was also difficult for my son to make his own decisions, because he felt he had an unusually large burden in doing what “I thought was right.”

    So forgive the length of this post – but it needs to be said that the “long run” isn’t at all what those young women expect. I think it’s faulty to chalk it up to socio-economic status, or religious background — take a look at the mass consumer images of mothers as madonnas at the mall; how about “baby gaps,” etc. I think you’ll find more powerful images in those than what you see at home. I, and I think some of those women, maybe are not finding much to make them happy at home.

  32. #32 Drew2287
    June 24, 2008

    For the record, I don’t think this has anything directly to do with feminism, “Knocked Up”, socio-economic influences, or anything else that can be generalized to the point where these kids become statistics. These are kids. Children. Remember the conversations you used to have as a 16 year old? The absolutely preposterous truths you THOUGHT you knew, and the rash, illogical decisions you made because, at the time, you thought you had it all figured out? Sure, we’re all part of this dynamic, unfathomable planet full of media, social, economic, and scientific influences (just like in 1890, 1930, 1969…), but the real problem here is that kids made a decision together without hearing the advice they needed to hear.

    Why didn’t any of these kids talk to their parents about their decision? Why hadn’t their parents already discussed this kind of stuff with them? How could so many kids be of the same warped mindset? It’s not culture forcing them into these decisions, it’s kids being kids and making their own decisions. It’s the PURPOSE of adults to make sure those decisions are well-informed and monitored, because even the brightest kids make mistakes. How can a school allow more than one 16 year old to come in for a pregnancy test without at least talking to the students about it, or their parents, or the faculty?

    It’s the duty of all adults to look out for the well-being of children. When kids make mistakes, they can only be held accountable for the decisions they’ve been educated enough to make, and that education doesn’t come from their neighbors or friends (how many half-truths did you glean from backyard forts and late-night slumber party conversations?), it comes from those with the experience to inform others about important issues.

    If a single adult had sat down with just one of these students and shown these kids the REAL side of STDs, pregnancy complications, raising a child with little or no income — even explained the sheer mechanics of child birth (all the tearing, bleeding, pain, etc. that no one talks about until the last trimester), I bet this situation wouldn’t have happened. Kids should be allowed to make their own decisions, and sometimes, their own mistakes, but only if the lesson they learn outweighs the consequences of the mistake. The decision to have a child, at any age, is not one to be taken lightly by ANYONE, and for someone to suggest that a 16 year old girl is informed enough to make a decision of that magnitude is probably a moron.

  33. #33 Monado
    June 24, 2008

    I’m a fan of those “baby-care” classes that don’t just talk about it but give you an electromechanical baby that cries and has to be picked up, walked, changed, “fed” etc. to make it stop–for three weeks on a real newborn’s schedule.

  34. #34 Larry Fafarman
    June 27, 2008

    I think that a nice doggie would fulfill the companionship needs of these students.

  35. #35 SophieHirschfeld
    June 27, 2008

    There’s actually multiple things that might be linked to this that should be investigated.

    For one, there’s the matter of the social meme. It only takes one influence to get something like that started and if someone came up with the idea and there was enough social pressure to conform, it is not at all surprising that it would spread very rapidly.

    Some other things to consider might be related to some things we have discovered in several studies. For example, women do tend to want to get pregnant more when being exposed to others who are pregnant or have babies. From an evolutionary perspective, this is beneficial because they’re trying to get more of their own genetic strands out there.

    Another thing that is entirely my own speculation is that there has been a lot of talk recently over the economy and gas prices. There has been some suggestion that times of need have some correlation with more reproduction. Even if they are not impoverished, I wonder if the hint of an impending crisis might stimulate the same response (that hint being embedded in the current talks surrounding gas prices and the economy).

    Also (regarding interrobang’s post), I don’t think this is a failure in feminism. Feminism, as much as it has done for us, has not offered a solid solution to every gender issue we face today nor should we expect everything to be absolutely gender perfect tomorrow. In fact, as time passes, new issues are likely to come up and some old solutions may prove to be less adequate than expected or in need of revision. If these girls made the decision to become pregnant even if they knew of other options, would it then be a failure in feminism? Wouldn’t it be the case that feminism is successful if they are doing what they want with their lives, even if we don’t like it?

    Regarding the “where are the parents?” questions. It is possible that the parents actually implanted positive messages about having babies into the kids. Usually themes that are extreme in regards to childbirth are associated with religion. I took a look at the wiki that was linked to but it made no mention of the religious composition of Gloucester because the census bureau removed information regarding religion from most of its pages. Thus, I had to go on a short quest on some statistics sites to find what I was looking for. As it turns out, while Gloucester isn’t nearly as highly religious as most places in the US seem to be (64.4% according to bestplaces.net and other sources), Gloucester is 50.18% Catholic. While Catholics are against premarital sex, they are also against contraceptives and they also preach about the importance of reproduction and famillies. That could very well have created an atmosphere where girls did buy into the theme that one of, if not their only, main purpose in life was circulated around having babies and their parents may not have discouraged that idea because they may very well have parents that believed such a thing. It may not have caused the increase in pregnancies, but it could very well have reinforced it and created an environment that would make such behavior sound like a good idea. I wish there was a way to find out what the belief structure of the involved girls is regarding pregnancy, religion, ethics and political stances.

    I also want to note that I loathe the negativity that gets directed at pregnant teens and teen mothers. While it does hurt girls’ educations and career paths right now to have babies that doesn’t mean that they should be so harshly condemned. The mistake has already been made and at this point, the girl needs a solution, not a bunch of people chastizing them. The focus should be on preventing a reoccurance of this event and helping the girls build stable lives. Also, most girls who get pregnant aren’t thinking “I’m going to get pregnant to go on welfare.” There’s very little evidence that such is a common practice and I find it doubtful that once they’ve accomplished the goal of being out of school and on welfare (as the person seemed to depict the situation) that girls are thinking about how awesome their life truly is.

    (sarcasm)

    Then again, perhaps they all go out in their awesome lives and have welfare parties where they serve
    hors d’oeuvres (weenies in a blanket) and for dinner … a classy dish that exemplifies the awesome lives that they party in: RAMEN NOODLES (with a tiny bit of egg for protein).

    (/sarcasm)

    Thus, it is not a win-win situation, as someone commented.

    daedalus2u, actually, not only were girls getting pregnant at 15 as far back as 150 years ago, many were even married by then. The human body’s maturity rate hasn’t changed so dramatically that we’ve suddenly got girls able to get pregnant at 13, 14, and 15 as an evolutionary overnight development (for humans, that’s only a couple generations).

    Anyway, that’s my rant on the matter.

  36. #36 Samia
    June 27, 2008

    Wait. No contraception was used because these kids were Catholic? So they had piety enough not to use condoms. But that whole sex-out-of-wedlock thing and the males not taking responsibility for their own children…what is that, a brain fart?

    I don’t think most pregnant teens plan out some kind of wonderful welfare-funded utopian existence before conceiving. It is a desperation thing. To some people, getting out of your own place having a child is some kind of ticket into adulthood. And a lot of young girls really do feel that having a kid means they’re going to get unconditional love 24/7 WOOHOO I CAN’T WAIT TO BE A MOMMY. I don’t know…when you exist in a world where pretty much everyone in power has a penis, where women are reduced to sex objects in all manner of media, funny ideas can start to creep into your head about your own self-worth.

  37. #37 PeteK
    June 27, 2008

    It’s none of our business, really. They’re adults (or almost adults)… The real problem is a prying society that pokes its nose into sexual mores, which are beyond its aegis…

  38. #38 t
    June 29, 2008

    I’m a little late but I thought I’d add my experiences anyway . . .
    You’d be surprised what happens to teenagers who are taught that both pre-marital sex and contraceptives are sins (ie Catholics). I went to Catholic school for K-12th grade, and while we got sex ed class once in grade school around the time everyone was hitting puberty, the only mention of the subject in high school involved a week of freshman year religion classes designed to brainwash us into thinking that abortion is wrong in any situation (this involved multiple videos of abortions being performed to, I assume, scare us into submission). At the other Catholic high school nearby, a girl I knew learned about the rhythm method in school, which was taught as an acceptable birth control method to use after marriage (since Catholics see all artificial birth control as a sin). Sadly, the teacher did not sufficiently explain that this method is NOT a good idea for teenagers with unpredictable cycles, and that it isn’t very reliable even in the best of circumstances, because the girl ended up pregnant a few months after graduating high school. She left college, lost her scholarship, and went on to become a cocktail waitress and mother of 2. Not that this is likely to be a factor in the “pregnancy pact” story, but when it is assumed kids will not have sex because it is a sin, and they are taught that birth control is a sin, when these kids do have sex (and they usually do), they are likely to either be completely uninformed about birth control or to believe it is wrong. You can believe sex before marriage is wrong all you want, but that’s not going to stop your hormones from asking for it. Believing condoms are wrong, however, can stop you from using them. This is reason #30,024 I am no longer a big fan of Catholic teachings . . .

  39. #39 Grimalkin
    July 3, 2008

    When you are a teen, you believe that the whole world revolves around you. So when you have less-than-attentive parents, large classrooms with a lot of competition for attention from teachers, and all the usual social drama that comes with being in High School, that lack of external focus on the self can feel like the end of the world.

    I remember being a teen. I remember girls in my classes talking about how they couldn’t wait to be mothers so that they could have something that LOVES THEM. That’s the goal, to get a totally dependent being, a being that exists solely because of your care and, in the perfect world fantasy of the teen mind, that appreciates that fact.

    Essentally, to a teen, the self is the entire world. To a baby, mom is the entire world (at least for the first while). So a teen who wants external attention will logically think of having a baby. I know I did when I was a teen.

    Part of it is an issue with parents who are too caught up in other things and can’t spend enough time with their families. Part of it is a system that requires parents to be too caught up in their jobs, to choose between a career and a family. Part of it is the size of the classrooms these days. All of this makes the teen feel isolated and unloved and lead teens to seek out alternate sources of love (bad boyfriends, babies, drugs, and, for the lucky few, healthy friendships and relationships). Part of it is also related to devaluing of education that’s been going on for the last few years. Gore was “boring” – “intellectual” has become an insult. Faith and pseudoscience are given more weight than actual science. Science “fails” us by giving us “autism-causing vaccines” and so forth. All this serves to take away from teens aspirations for an education before starting a family.

    I work in market research and one of questions I have to ask is what level of education the person I am talking to has obtained. I’d like to end this with a response someone gave me: “Twelfth grade … No, I didn’t graduate. I got smart and dropped out.”

  40. #40 tom756
    August 27, 2008

    All of this makes the teen feel isolated and unloved and lead teens to seek out alternate sources of love (bad boyfriends, babies, drugs, and, for the lucky few, healthy friendships and relationships).
    ********************************
    tom
    Kansas Alcohol Addiction Treatment