Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

17 in Gloucester MA

You might have read about it in Time Magazine. Or heard it on your local news. Or even some national news program.

Seventeen girls under the age of 16 at Gloucester High School are pregnant. Read that again. Seventeen girls under the age of 16 at Gloucester High School are pregnant.

School officials picked up on the fact that young girls were falling pregnant back in October. The numbers kept rising. The school nurse was astounded by the numbers of pregnancy tests she gave, and the reactions to the negative tests were of disappointment, not joy. Something was amiss amongst the female students. It appeared as if pregnancy at 15 or 14 was something to desire.

Then, following some questioning, the pact was revealed. A pact between the girls to all get pregnant and raise their babies together.

Think about that for a second.

These girls have, in essence, changed the way society thinks of motherhood. Not only have they determined that as very young teens they are able to become mothers, they have also determined that fathers are irrelevant, and that they can follow Hillary Clinton's statement that "it takes a village to raise a child."

Now you have to remember that I'm a single mother that has raised my children alone since infancy. However, I was 40 when they were born, had a very successful and enriching career, and wasn't in my freshman year of high school. Nor do I believe that father's are irrelevant, I just know that in many cases women can and do a better job of raising their children with absent or uninvolved fathers. Even women who are married to men who are disinterested in fatherhood take on the roles of both mother and father. It happens. But don't, not for one second, think that I approve of what these girls are doing. Teen pregnancy is not something I would ever want (or accept) from my own daughter. I think these girls are ruining their lives.

But we all need to step back from our own tangled feelings and emotions and look at what is happening in Gloucester. A fishing community since it's inception in the 1600's, Gloucester remains a mostly white collar community of around 30, 000 residents. It is largely Catholic, largely insular, and since the fishing has been doomed by stringent laws and the lack of fish, it has become a town filled with unemployed and underemployed residents. Fishing is a terribly dangerous occupation and few families in Gloucester have been left unscathed by the loss of fishing boats in it's shrinking fleet. Gloucester, for all it's natural beauty, has never been a happy town. Hardworking and hard drinking would be an accurate description of it's occupants.

Growing up with the fear of death, the rampant poverty and lack of state services (thank you Mitt Romney), these girls have taken it upon themselves to create their own community. They have looked out at the high rate of broken marriages and relationships and have determined that perhaps there is a better way to receive unconditional love. They have watched their own community stagger and then falter due to economics, and they were looking for a way out, a different way, a better way to live. Hence the pact.

Seventeen new babies.

School officials have been slow to offer birth control in this heavily Catholic community. It still is not available in the school health clinic. But even if it were, these girls were determined to be mothers. They worked at it. They weren't in relationships, in fact one of the fathers is a 24-year old homeless man. These girls wanted these babies. I have to wonder if that is such a bad thing. Wanted children are loved children. We all know that.

The school offers free on-site day care for these babies. So does our high school. Thank goodness it does, because one of my daughter's best friends is due in August with a little boy. Another classmate of my son's is also pregnant. We were aghast that two girls we knew were both pregnant. And now Gloucester. Seventeen girls. Seventeen babies. That daycare center is going to be overwhelmed.

My heart is breaking for these girls. I don't think they know what they are in for. Infants are hard. Toddlers are different, but equally as hard. Pre-schoolers... OMG.

Obviously the town is going to have to step up to the challenge of all these new babies, all being born together. These new families are going to need housing and food and clothing. These moms still have to attend school and do their schoolwork all the while parenting a baby.

Teen pregnancy is a fact of life. The statistics say that the rate of teen pregnancies is steadily falling. The anti-choice people blame that on abortions, but the rate of abortions is falling as well amongst teens. The availability of birth control plays a large part in the falling rates. However, Senator John McCain is against all forms of birth control for women (he really is!) If (God Forbid) McCain was elected president, Roe v Wade could be overturned and birth control made illegal for ALL women, not just teenagers. Let's move right back to the stone age, when he was born.

I can't profess to know what is going to happen once these babies start arriving in Gloucester. It might be a wonderful joy, it might be a scary nightmare. What I do know is that something is amiss in our society when a bunch of young teens think that becoming mothers is a way to find the love that they are apparently missing in their own families. If they have not been nutured and adored by their own families, they will look for that love someplace else. That I know for sure. I live that. My desperation to be a mother was indeed formulated on needing the love that I didn't get as a child from a dysfunctional family.

We need to do better. We need to step up and be better parents to our daughters. We need to ensure that what happened already in Gloucester doesn't happen next year in Des Moines, Provo, Great Falls, Stockton, Urbana, Portland, Walla Walla, Boise, Youngstown, Detroit, Memphis, Raleigh, Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Abeline, Norman, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, etc.

Don't just hug your daughters. Tell them about birth control. Take them to the GYN and get them a prescription.

Don't assume your daughter isn't sexually active. Assume they are. Talk to them about sexually transmitted diseases. Tell them about pregnancy. Tell them about the options.

DO NOT put your own issues above their choices. As a very wise father of a newly pregnant teen told me just this week, "I didn't want to be the person she blamed me for if I forced a choice on her. I didn't want her to hate me or resent me for the next forty years down the line because I pushed my views on her choice." He let his daughter make the right choice FOR HER, and for the baby. He is a very wise man. Who won't be a grandfather anytime soon.

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Blogger Heather J. said...

stopping by for NaComLeavMo - hi!

Wow, I haven't heard about this at all. Unbelievable. Or maybe I should say Totally Believable?! It actually doesn't sound all that far-fetched given the world we live in.

20/6/08 10:42 AM  
Blogger Daisy said...

This case has me floored. Simply floored. It's as if these girls decided to have babies almost as a game, a group "activity", without considering the consequences. The LifeLong Consequences. Girls, do you realize you'll feel like you're grounded for the next eighteen years?

20/6/08 4:53 PM  
Blogger Busted said...

This story was just so scary to me...


20/6/08 6:41 PM  

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