|High school girls make pregnancy pact|
Earlier this year, when an unusually high number of girls began showing up in the Gloucester High School clinic asking for pregnancy tests, school officials began to wonder what was going on. Was it a fluke? Was it the influence of movies like Juno and Knocked Up? No, it was actually something much more disturbing : a group of girls at the Massachusetts high school had made a pact that they would all get pregnant and raise their babies together. By the time school was out for the summer, seventeen of them had succeeded in getting knocked up. On purpose.
What on earth would possess a group of high school girls to do this? Former student Amanda Ireland thinks she knows. She gave birth during her freshman year at Gloucester and says the reaction from her fellow students was not what you would expect. She wasn't shunned or pitied. She says she was envied by girls who wanted what they thought she was getting from her child: love. "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."
Ireland was able to complete her education at Gloucester because the school goes to great lengths to support teen mothers. There is an on-site daycare and babies at school are a common site. But after administering some 150 pregnancy tests by May, the clinic's medical director, Dr. Brian Orr, and the school nurse, Kim Daly, began to advocate prescribing contraceptives without parental consent. That idea was promptly shot down and both have since resigned in protest. "Dr. Orr and Ms. Daly have no right to decide this for our children," says Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
It is a shame those two lost their jobs over it, but a lack of easily available contraceptives is clearly not what got these girls where they are. They didn't want birth control pills, they wanted babies. But why? School superintendent Christopher Farmer blames the economy. The blue-collar fishing town has seen an economic downturn over the past decade and many jobs have disappeared overseas. "Families are broken," he says. "Many of our young people are growing up directionless."
There may be something to that theory, but I suspect it is much more complicated than that. Back in my day, there was a certain stigma attached to teen mothers. Pregnant girls did not attend regular classes and they certainly didn't bring their kids to school with them. Is it possible that this school, and others like it, encourage teens to have children by lessening the consequences? Or is this just an extreme case of group-think in girls too young to know better?
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