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June 19, 2008 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High 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.
posted by swift (209 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Teenage unwed baby pacts: the solution!
posted by nanojath at 2:04 PM on June 19, 2008


Principal Joseph Sullivan said that wasn't all that was shocking. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," he told Time.

I doubt this is what the parents had in mind when they taught these girls about picking and accomplishing goals.
posted by Ludi at 2:05 PM on June 19, 2008


Of course you should blame movies before, you know, asking the kids.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:05 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


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.

Based on that sentence, I thought this story was going to go in a completely different direction than it did.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:09 PM on June 19, 2008 [40 favorites]


"Finally, I'll have someone to love me unconditionally!"

"You mean like you love your mom?"

"Exac... ohshit."
posted by 23skidoo at 2:11 PM on June 19, 2008 [73 favorites]


All you have to do is drive through Gloucester to know why this happened. It's a beat-up town beholden to a dying industry in New England (commercial fishing). Those girls don't see a bright future that they could wreck by becoming pregnant. In fact, having a kid is probably the only positive milestone they can imagine.

I don't know what the big deal is. If they didn't get pregnant in high school, they'd do it shortly after. And the kids turn out exactly the same-- shitty parenting but they'll never be hungry or lacking vaccinations. The girls were born into a situation where all they can do is mate, spawn and die and that's exactly what they'll do.

I do wish that my Massachusetts tax dollars went into giving them opportunities instead of cash handouts for cigarettes, Zima and Oreos. But I know that's not going to happen. So there's no sense being outraged.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:13 PM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


I went to school with girls that had a similar feeling, that babies will love them unconditionally - these girls usually came from some stressful home situations, and it was the hope of a little companion that made them so excited to be prego. This is an age-old thing, though, not new or relegated to Gloucester.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 2:15 PM on June 19, 2008


BREAKING: Metafilter users listen to NPR!



I keed! I keed! Just discussed this story with my ladyfriend & we're both flummoxed about its larger cultural significance, but good gosh damn it makes for a great screenplay: "Rob Schneider is ... 17 pregnant girls!"
posted by joe lisboa at 2:15 PM on June 19, 2008


This is tricky. I suppose the flip side to believe that teenage girls are old enough and mature enough to make private, informed decisions about getting an abortion -- and this is a position I stand by -- you must also believe that they can similarly make the choice to have a baby.

But, Jeez, this is a hard test of a pro-choice position.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:19 PM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Says Mayor Carolyn Kirk: "Dr. Orr and Ms. Daly have no right to decide this for our children."

they're not - in fact, i don't know if you've noticed, but your children seem to be making their own decisions - and some of them are pretty questionable
posted by pyramid termite at 2:20 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


What is it in the water that's making 18-year-old girls act like 12-year-old girls?
posted by notsnot at 2:22 PM on June 19, 2008


sperm
posted by swift at 2:25 PM on June 19, 2008 [13 favorites]


On the other hand, while things probably won't turn out as well as they hoped and they may come to regret their decision, at least they planned these pregnancies, even with some eye (what seems like a communal caretaking situation?) towards providing for the future. They seem to be doing better than many.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:26 PM on June 19, 2008


This is crappy use of statistics. From 4 to 17 out of an estimated 600 girls is not a spike, it's nothing.

You could turn it around this way: the number of girls who didn't get pregnant this year is almost 98% of what it was last year - virtually unchanged. Hooray for curbing teen pregnancy!
posted by Pastabagel at 2:28 PM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


Sweet fancy Moses, there shall be no posting about my high school on Metafilter!
posted by billypilgrim at 2:29 PM on June 19, 2008


Based on that sentence, I thought this story was going to go in a completely different direction than it did.

Same here. And given that it's New England, my first thought was, "Dagon!"
posted by lord_wolf at 2:36 PM on June 19, 2008 [22 favorites]


Well, one year does not make a trend.

On the other hand, I feel safe in predicting a rise in cliffhanger FPPs.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:40 PM on June 19, 2008


Is it aliens?
posted by Artw at 2:41 PM on June 19, 2008


When I was a teenager I was baselessly arrogant about a lot of things, but it seems to me that eagerly, confidently striding towards parenthood as a teenager is at a whole 'nother level of ignorance and idiocy.

Even if these young women got out their notepads and made careful budgets of their Burger King incomes, they must be blind to the idea that their ability to contribute to their children's lives is proportional to their own development as people. Even the most responsible and level-headed teenagers I know today are still mostly naive and myopic, and I just don't think they'd make very sensible or wise parents.

When I consider parenthood, the idea of being overwhelmingly responsible for an actual human being's biological development, education and social integration for nearly two decades is like a mountain in my mind that needs to be scaled. I don't understand how any mind - male or female, young or old - can make the "go ahead" decision cavalierly.
posted by chudmonkey at 2:41 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


As always: There's a Law and Order episode in here somewhere.
posted by drezdn at 2:42 PM on June 19, 2008


Papa dont preach
I'm in trouble deep
Papa dont preach
I've been losing sleep

But I made up my mind, I'm keeping my baby
posted by plexi at 2:43 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Couldn't they at least find someone better than some homeless dude?
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:43 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jesus was a homeless dude.
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on June 19, 2008 [8 favorites]


Most European countries wish they could get this kind of reproduction going among the native population.
posted by GuyZero at 2:45 PM on June 19, 2008


BREAKING: Metafilter users listen to NPR!

BREAKING: Metafilter users listen to the radio, watch TV and read newspapers.
posted by ericb at 2:45 PM on June 19, 2008


Also: Gah, NOT aliens. I clicked the link for that?
posted by Artw at 2:46 PM on June 19, 2008


I don't understand how any mind - male or female, young or old - can make the "go ahead" decision cavalierly.

Because they think it's like having a pet, except most of them have never had a pet either.
posted by GuyZero at 2:46 PM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


The Scene: The Gloucester Town Hall

The Players: The parents of Gloucester teens and the teens themselves

Parent 1: We have a problem. Some completely ridiculous number of our teen girls are getting pregnant on purpose. Some sort of pact.

Parent 2: what are they, fucking nuts?

Parent 1: I don't know. They just think babies are cool or some shit.

Parent 3: What were you thinking?!

Teen Girl 1: You guys always tell us that a baby is God's precious gift to us!

Parent 4: What the hell are you talking about?!

Teen Girl 2: That's why we can't have abortions, remember?

Parent 2: You shouldn't be having sex in the first place!

Teen Girl 3: We only did it for the baby! You guys said sex was for having babies, and that that's the only reason we should have sex, so we never needed condoms!

Parent 3: Ha. Yeah, about that...

Parent 2: Let's change the subject! How are you supposed to concentrate on your studies if you have a baby to worry about? Don't you want to make something of yourself?

Teen Girl 1: I don't understand.

Parent 2: As in, learn stuff and get a good job.

Teen Girl 1: But you said that was all for liberals and queers.

Parent 2: Haha... I did say that, didn't I.

Teen Girls: Babies, yay!
posted by shmegegge at 2:48 PM on June 19, 2008 [65 favorites]


now, lefties, you still believe those skanks should have welfare to support them so they can stay at home and care for their babies?

Iwondered why the upset because one daddy a homeless guy. Would be ok if one daddy were a manager at the local grocery and was married?


Shit like this becomes a whole lot more tolerable (and fun even) when you imagine it coming from someone who sounds like Niko Bellic.

...Ah, Niko, you came to America expecting the dream and all you got were five stars and some sixteen year olds who weren't on the pill.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 2:48 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


I bet these girls didn't get spanked enough as children.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:50 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah and we see how that turned out for Mary Magdalene, Artw. Pregnant and alone in the world at like fifteen, doomed to be "protected" for the rest of her life by the secret Society of the Holy Blood.

Yet another example of bad decisionmaking from teenaged girls.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:52 PM on June 19, 2008


Jesus was a homeless dude.

Does statutory rape include immaculate conception?
posted by YoBananaBoy at 2:56 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is slowly becoming my favorite thread of the month.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 2:57 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Others blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing young unwed mothers.

People have been blaming movies (and music, and video games) for every negative teenage statistic since teenage statistics began.

A generation ago, there were just as many teen pregnancies, but the girls went off to "spend the semester at Aunt Peggy's in Outer Mongolia" (which was code for "went off to have the baby at a home for unwed mothers and gave it up for adoption") or they got married and dropped out of school to keep the baby. I don't think the percentage of teenage pregnancies has increased, I just think the way society reacts to it has.

On a side note: Does everyone get the same ad above the article? On mine, right above the picture of the giant pregnant belly, is an ad that says "Is it a pimple... Or a dangerous staph infection? Find out now." Hehe.
posted by amyms at 2:59 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think the percentage of teenage pregnancies has increased, I just think the way society reacts to it has.

Since last year?

Still not a trend. Just sayin'.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:03 PM on June 19, 2008


Since last year?

Since a generation ago, per my comment.
posted by amyms at 3:05 PM on June 19, 2008


The high school has done perhaps too good a job of embracing young mothers.

Are you fucking kidding me?
posted by peep at 3:13 PM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Your comment was that you don't think the number of pregnancies has gone up. The fpp sites a near four-fold increase. I don't think a radical change in stigma can account. But again, two years do not make a trend...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:13 PM on June 19, 2008


Jesus was a homeless dude.

Does statutory rape include immaculate conception?


I was going to correct you and point out that Jesus was the product of immaculate conception rather than a participant, but then I remembered that Jesus=God, and my head done blowed up.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:18 PM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


What we need here is a rate over time. The last ten, twenty years for that school, and again for the town as well. If 17 is up from 4 which is down from 12 which is just up from 11 and so on, that's a bit different from 17 up from 4 and 3 and 5 and...

Between the pact and the homeless baby daddy, there are a whole lot of interesting details that this story doesn't actually cover.
posted by cortex at 3:19 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


my head done blowed up

Holy Mary
Milf of God
Pray for us sinners...
posted by cortex at 3:20 PM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


Even if these young women got out their notepads and made careful budgets of their Burger King incomes,

Dude, they don't have jobs. Part of the attraction of getting knocked up for these kids is that the state pays you to stay home and watch The Price Is Right while you yell at little Brandine to keep quiet.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:20 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


What do you call immaculate conception that is against the woman's will?
posted by found missing at 3:34 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mayor Curley,
I really don't think they thought that far ahead ... You know that whole evil scheme to bilk the system. Your thinking is so 1970s Claudine.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 3:35 PM on June 19, 2008


BREAKING: Metafilter users listen to the radio, watch TV and read newspapers.

BREAKING: Metafilter users listen to the radio, watch TV and read newspapers shortly before posting.

In case you missed it, I continue to "keed."
posted by joe lisboa at 3:37 PM on June 19, 2008


What do you call immaculate conception that is against the woman's will?

The Annunciation?
posted by joe lisboa at 3:39 PM on June 19, 2008


Dude, they don't have jobs. Part of the attraction of getting knocked up for these kids is that the state pays you to stay home and watch The Price Is Right while you yell at little Brandine to keep quiet.

You sound like one of Rush Limbaugh's douchebag dittoheads ranting about "welfare queens." I know you like to play the contrarian, but I know you're not one of them, so cut it out.
posted by dersins at 3:41 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Social stigma of out-of-wedlock births has decreased. This is a Good Thing. However, social stigma of poorly raising your child has decreased as well, which is a Bad Thing.

I would love to read MeFi comments from teen parents about this post, but I probably won't because they're busy being parents and regretting their poor life choices (not necessarily the big baby choice, either).
posted by infinitewindow at 3:48 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah but white girls can't be welfare queens. It says so in the Bible or sumthin.
posted by Avenger at 3:48 PM on June 19, 2008


The Pact is an absolutely brilliant innovation; the most desirable male who will have sex with you is probably a lot hotter than the most desirable one who will marry or live with you, and with the collapse of fisheries none of them have jobs anyway, and couldn't support you and the kid if they wanted to.

So you choose the one you like best from the locals, or you hang out and try to catch the attention of a member of a band or sports team passing through town.

This is what I call modern Feminism!
posted by jamjam at 3:53 PM on June 19, 2008


Adoption fees for white babies can be tens of thousands of dollars.
It's just a matter of buyers finding sellers.
NPR is a good place to start.

Meanwhile, I want to hear an interview with the Homeless guy.
posted by the Real Dan at 4:03 PM on June 19, 2008


From 4±2 (assuming counting statistics) to 17±4 with not other population changes is a spike at about the 3σ level. Certainly suggestive of something other than ordinary statistical fluctuations, as borne out by the existence of a "pact" to get pregnant.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 4:03 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm mostly pretty sad that many of these girls seem to have been motivated by a need for another human being to love them. I have close relatives and have had classmates who had kids pretty young. My grandmother had her first child at 16. But no one I know did it deliberately so that they'd feel unconditionally loved by someone, although I've heard of this happening before. And it's tough being a single mother at any age, but especially so young, so I can't imagine what this will be like with the additional letdown of that kid needing love from you and rewarding your efforts by throwing breakfast back at you.

now, lefties, you still believe those skanks should have welfare to support them so they can stay at home and care for their babies?

Yeah, welfare is probably in many of their immediate futures, since caring for a baby on minimum wage often isn't feasible.

Calling them skanks is just misogynist.
posted by Tehanu at 4:06 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


2006 US birth rate for adolescents ages 15-19 = 41.9 births per 1000 females.

Gloucester High has 1200 students, assume 600 girls.

According to US birth rate for 2006, expect 25 births. 17 is unusual for Gloucester, maybe, but still lags behind the national average.
posted by grounded at 4:23 PM on June 19, 2008


I R confused. I was in Gloucester years ago on a road trip to Boston from DC. Stayed at a friend's grandparents' "cottage" for the night. Freakin' place was the biggest, swankiest mansion I'd ever seen, and that I'll ever sleep in.

So this must have been the public school, obviously, because I've always thought of Gloucester Mass as where Richie Rich grew up.
posted by bardic at 4:25 PM on June 19, 2008


now, lefties, you still believe those skanks should have welfare to support them so they can stay at home and care for their babies?

Well, you can hardly blame the children for the sins of their parents, can you? How would you prefer those children get taken care of?
posted by davejay at 4:41 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Teen pregnancy rates have been declining for the last 30 years (as of 2002).
posted by girandole at 4:44 PM on June 19, 2008


Couldn't they at least find someone better than some homeless dude?
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:43 PM on June 19 [+] [!]

Jesus was a homeless dude.
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on June 19 [+] [!]


You know who else was a homeless dude?
posted by kenlayne at 4:44 PM on June 19, 2008


Things they probably have now that they probably wouldn't have in a few years:

-Health insurance
-Free day care
-Free education
-Free rent

And it's a stupid decision, how?
posted by sondrialiac at 4:50 PM on June 19, 2008


I'm in an obvious mood today, so here you go.
posted by Kinbote at 4:51 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


>>Even if these young women got out their notepads and made careful budgets of
>>their Burger King incomes,
>
>Dude, they don't have jobs. Part of the attraction of getting knocked up for these kids
>is that the state pays you to stay home and watch The Price Is Right while you yell at
>little Brandine to keep quiet.

Interesting that the article made no mention of the girls' welfare incentive in getting themselves knocked up. If the setting of this story were some inner-city ghetto, you can bet Time would have mentioned the welfare–pregnancy connection.
posted by mellowmonk at 4:54 PM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Interesting, grounded. If you assume the student body is predominantly white and use the rate 26.6/1000 from table 5 of your link, you expect 16±4 births.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 4:57 PM on June 19, 2008


The Young Ladies
Independent Society
of East Gloucester
has arisen
from the flames:

the Sodality
of the Female Rule
has been
declared: We will Love
with Kisses

Each Other; and Serve Man
as Our Child

charles olsen, the maximus poems, II, 82
posted by pyramid termite at 4:58 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


You sound like one of Rush Limbaugh's douchebag dittoheads ranting about "welfare queens." I know you like to play the contrarian, but I know you're not one of them, so cut it out.

I honestly think that the aid the women receives plays into it. I'm sure they all have older friends/realtives/acquaintances/parents who are already on the state with their own babies, and I'm certain that the standard of living provided by state aid is as least as good as any job they would be qualified for. What would you do if you were a girl in that situation? I'd probably get knocked up because the state will pay me better than being a clerk at a convenience store.

Obviously, Massachusetts can't stop providing Welfare-- that's punishing the children. I don't have a good solution. But I know that state checks to single mothers is helping to perpetuate this cycle.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:10 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


drezdn: As always: There's a Law and Order episode in here somewhere.

As summer vacation begins, 17 girls at Gloucester High School are expecting babies—BUT WERE THEY EXPECTING MURDER?... AN ALL-NEW LAW AND ORDER.
posted by ALongDecember at 5:33 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Should we really be surprised at this?
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:34 PM on June 19, 2008


Edward R. Meow: So, tell me, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Young Michael: I wanna be married and have a hundred kids so I can have hundred friends and no one can say no to being my friend.

posted by Riki tiki at 5:38 PM on June 19, 2008


I was going to correct you and point out that Jesus was the product of immaculate conception rather than a participant, but then I remembered that Jesus=God, and my head done blowed up.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:18 PM on June 19 [+] [!]


The Virgin Mary, not Jesus, was the product of immaculate conception, so your head can unasplode.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 5:40 PM on June 19, 2008


What is it in the water that's making 18-year-old girls act like 12-year-old girls?

Malted barley, yeast, and hops.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:43 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


On a completely unrelated note, I'd like to congratulate 17 year old, unwed, Jamie Lynne Spears, on the birth of her daughter earlier today.
posted by pwb503 at 5:49 PM on June 19, 2008


I'd like to congratulate 17 year old, unwed, Jamie Lynne Spears, on the birth of her daughter earlier today.

Can they still be MILFs if they're not yet past the age of consent?
posted by bondcliff at 6:03 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've always thought of Gloucester Mass as where Richie Rich grew up.

Gloucester, like many North Shore communities, has many estates and grand summer homes. It's also home to many fisherman and working folk.

The "true life" book/film "The Perfect Storm" was based in Gloucester. Many also know the town for its attraction to artists such as Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper.

Many recognize the Man at the Wheel sculpture from its depicition on packaging for Gorton's of Gloucester frozen fish products.
posted by ericb at 6:12 PM on June 19, 2008


I think in Louisiana the age on consent is 17, so MILF away.
posted by maxwelton at 6:13 PM on June 19, 2008


*to many fishermen*
posted by ericb at 6:13 PM on June 19, 2008


So they're not mature enough to vote, buy cigarettes, or take photos of themselves naked, but they're A-OK to become parents?

Stay classy, America.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:21 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


So they're not mature enough to vote, buy cigarettes, or take photos of themselves naked, but they're A-OK to become parents?

Clearly the solution is to lower the age of majority.
posted by captaincrouton at 6:38 PM on June 19, 2008


Astro Zombie, so your natural reaction is to force these mothers to have abortions, and you are forgoing it to retain your reputation of intellectual consistency? How nice.

Anyway, since we're all finding our own pet causes the article forgot, how about society devaluing men to simply sperm donors and child support checks? It seems the only reason they are upset about the homeless guy is he's only good for the former.
posted by vsync at 6:39 PM on June 19, 2008


Thank goodness my bad teenage ideas were limited to unfortunate haircuts and footwear of questionable taste. Terrible shoes don't need to be fed, clothed or educated. I did love them at the time, though.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 6:48 PM on June 19, 2008


since we're all finding our own pet causes the article forgot

Not a goddam word about vi being better than emacs.
posted by everichon at 6:52 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


I think in Louisiana the age on consent is 17, so MILF away.

Yup. Just try not to catch anything from her sister.
posted by inigo2 at 6:54 PM on June 19, 2008


Not a goddam word about vi being better than emacs.

Pico is the way to go.
posted by inigo2 at 6:55 PM on June 19, 2008


How come pacts in the news are always depressing? You never hear about the "graduate from college pact," "invent a rocketship pact" or the "beat Gauntlet together pact."
posted by drezdn at 6:58 PM on June 19, 2008 [14 favorites]


I honestly think that the aid the women receives plays into it

These women wanted babies so badly they went to a homeless man. What makes you think they had anything resembling a decision process that took this piece of information into account in such a manner? The facts of this case absolutely scream against your conclusion.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:03 PM on June 19, 2008


When are women supposed to have babies in this day and age? Not when you're young because you can't afford them/ are too immature, not when you're mature because you need to work. No-one gets married before 30 anymore, the you have to have a few years alone together, buy a house, save some money etc. By the time it's socially acceptable yo have kids, most women can't anymore.
posted by fshgrl at 7:08 PM on June 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


I sort of wonder to what degree "homeless man" may mean "dude living a nomadic lifestyle in a van" rather than "bum begging for change."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:08 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm sure they all have older friends/realtives/acquaintances/parents who are already on the state with their own babies .... I know that state checks to single mothers is helping to perpetuate this cycle. (emphasis added)

Do you have support for that? Massachusetts has something like the fourth highest social services spending, and something like the 11th lowest teen pregnancy rate. That doesn't prove anything, of course, but it seems premature to claim that social services cause teen pregnancy. My own intuition is that even in Massachusetts, having a baby is way more expensive than the additional assistance it brings in -- and that "older friends/realtives/acquaintances/parents" know that.

Meanwhile, at least one study found no decrease in birthrates from ending additional cash payments.
posted by jhc at 7:12 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


The thing is most kids this age are only vaguely able to really, really understand the consequences of these types of significant life decisions. They get it concretely, but they don't really get it. They are mostly just following their emotional needs and looking for the fastest way to get those needs met. People always try to find rational explanations for the stupid decisions teenagers make, here's the thing, there really isn't one. They don't think it through, at best it's quasi logical.

They are young, they have no life experience, and often a lot of information is kept from them and they are outright lied to by the adults that are supposed to protect them. They can't confide in adults because whether they are feeling suicidal or having sex or thinking about having sex or dating someone older or drinking or doing drugs, they can't tell anyone that could give them half decent advice on the subject without being turned in to their parents or their school or the cops. So we create a catch 22 where kids are blindly navigating through a very difficult and confusing time in their lives with no one to turn to when things get bad.

They didn't do it for the welfare, that's ridiculous. I doubt most of these girls know how to write a check, let alone work the welfare system. They did it because something was seriously missing in their lives and they turned to each other rather than an adult and came up with this insane plan to bond together and to have babies they believed would love them forever and make everything all better.
posted by whoaali at 7:30 PM on June 19, 2008 [10 favorites]


"We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy"

Okay, just ONE of them. So there goes my plan of becoming homeless and hanging around high schools in Mass. hoping to score an... 18 way?
posted by Talanvor at 7:41 PM on June 19, 2008


it seems premature to claim that social services cause teen pregnancy.

Do you honestly think that if there wasn't a welfare safety net, uneducated and unemployable girls would would aspire to get pregnant? I realize that these girls are at both an age and social stratum where long-term planning is very, very hard; however, if having a baby meant providing for it all by yourself and not getting subsidized housing, the thinking would be "I'm soooo fucked if I get pregnant" and not "hey! let's agree to all get pregnant together! Wheee!" and most of the inevitable true accidents would be put up for adoption.

I'm not suggesting for a second that welfare should be stopped. I know that dole payments are far from the most egregious waste of tax dollars. But can we please get away from this old-timey soft-left idea that being poor excuses selfish, boorish behavior?

I'm from Maine-- I know that poverty is a perpetual motion machine. Can't I both feel sorry for those girls for being dealt such a shitty hand AND disgusted with their sense of entitlement? Having children with the EXPECTATION that someone else will pay to raise it is very, very ugly.

They didn't do it for the welfare, that's ridiculous. I doubt most of these girls know how to write a check, let alone work the welfare system. They did it because something was seriously missing in their lives

They didn't do it purely so they didn't have to work, no. Your third sentence was spot-on "They did it because something was seriously missing in their lives." But the subtext is that they didn't have to think about how to provide for this kid, so there was no reason not to get pregnant. And I don't think the girls would consider this course "gaming the welfare system"-- getting pregnant and getting on the dole is just what many folks do in their world. They just elected to do it a little sooner than most.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:43 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I honestly think that the aid the women receives plays into it. I'm sure they all have older friends/realtives/acquaintances/parents who are already on the state with their own babies, and I'm certain that the standard of living provided by state aid is as least as good as any job they would be qualified for. What would you do if you were a girl in that situation? I'd probably get knocked up because the state will pay me better than being a clerk at a convenience store.

If they were paying attention to family members on welfare, they would be less likely to romanticize sleepless nights and the exhausting grind of taking care of a child on limited means. The standard of living is not as good as a job, because that baby means that the money doesn't belong to you -- it's pretty much all used up on the unglamorous shopping cart filled with diapers and baby food and convenience food for mom.
posted by desuetude at 7:57 PM on June 19, 2008


But the subtext is that they didn't have to think about how to provide for this kid, so there was no reason not to get pregnant. And I don't think the girls would consider this course "gaming the welfare system"-- getting pregnant and getting on the dole is just what many folks do in their world. They just elected to do it a little sooner than most.

Ok, here's the thing, you are making a giant leap to these girls really thinking through what it takes to take care of a baby. I mean they just need love right? And I mean they can live in my room in my house and I'm sure my mom will help out. I've babysat for my next door neighbors for like 2 years now, I can change diapers, it'll be fine.

You don't actually have to think about providing for the kid, until it's literally sitting in front of you. Any rational adult thinks about it taking care of a baby before deciding to get pregnant, however children do not. Especially when everyone else is doing it and you have a group consensus that this is ok and everyone will just help each other out and like babysit for each other. And you know what else? Like I can watch your baby during my free period and then you can watch mine while I'm in class. Omg this is going to be so great and like all are babies are going to be like brothers and sisters, and best friends just like us!
posted by whoaali at 7:58 PM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


Having children with the EXPECTATION that someone else will pay to raise it is very, very ugly.

I'm with whoaali, I think you're wrong about the welfare angle. To say they're getting pregnant because they know they can go on welfare is based on the assumption that these girls have any understanding of what it means to financially provide for oneself and ones children. I'm assuming that all these girls now live at home and have all their needs taken care of by their parents. When I was 16 and living at home with my parents, I didn't understand that things cost money. I drank, like, 3 gallons of orange juice a day. And it just magically kept appearing in the fridge, how about that! That's how teens work, they don't think things out far enough in advance to make plans like, hey, I bet if I get pregnant, the government will pay for all this stuff, mwa ha ha. It's all a jumble of, babies are cute! I want to be a cute pregnant girl like all my friends! Babies are cuddly! I can buy my baby cute clothes!

On preview: whoaali stole my thoughts!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:59 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Can't I both feel sorry for those girls for being dealt such a shitty hand AND disgusted with their sense of entitlement? Having children with the EXPECTATION that someone else will pay to raise it is very, very ugly.

I do see where you're coming from -- defense of the poor shouldn't mean abandoning personal responsibility. On the other hand, I linked a study with some 5,000 participants finding no correlation between social services and decisions to become pregnant, suggesting that a sense of entitlement had nothing to do with the story in this article, and you haven't offered any kind of counterpoint. The sense of entitlement that disgusted you so far comes entirely from your imagination.

I don't know you well enough to say this, but ... if you have zero data, and you are 100% certain about the conclusion, that's usually a chance to learn something about how your own brain works. It's worth thinking about anyway.
posted by jhc at 8:05 PM on June 19, 2008 [7 favorites]


I suppose the flip side to believe that teenage girls are old enough and mature enough to make private, informed decisions about getting an abortion ... you must also believe that they can similarly make the choice to have a baby.

astro zombie, what that logic fails to address is that not all teenage girls are making mature, private, informed decisions to have sex. they are driven by hormones and peer pressure, even when that peer pressure is just one hormonal teenage boy. having found oneself in the position of a lifelong consequence for what was most probably a highly irresponsible action*, one would hope that follow-on decisions would be made by weighing a great many factors which, perhaps, should have been considered beforehand, which would have prevented the abort/keep/adopt decision.

and mayor curley ... oh my god. I'm sure they all have older friends/realtives/acquaintances/parents who are already on the state with their own babies ... . you're sure. really? that has to be one of the most ridiculous statements i've ever heard, except for maybe and I'm certain that the standard of living provided by state aid is as least as good as any job they would be qualified for. you probably cheered when laura bush gave her little comment about how much better off katrina refugees were in the astro dome, didn't you?

*yes. i question the responsibility of these gloucester girls and would call their little pact anything BUT a mature, private, informed decision.
posted by msconduct at 8:10 PM on June 19, 2008


Any rational adult thinks about it taking care of a baby before deciding to get pregnant, however children do not.

IT IS FULL OF FALSITY.

You think that "adults" generally act rationally or consider the consequences of their actions beforehand.
You think these teenagers (children? come on.) are apparently flat-out mentally defective, not just 17 and unwise.
I mean, I think they made a bad decision too, but looking at statistics about 40-50% of pregnancies are unplanned, and even with this situation the town is still below the average teenage pregnancy rate. If it was a bad decision at least they MADE A DECISION rather than just fucked without a rubber and "Oh hey now I'm pregnant who could have expected that?" That's more consideration of the consequences than a lot of adults exhibit, apparently.
I don't expect it but I hope these kids grow up great and come on Metafilter and laugh in everyone's face.


When I was 16 and living at home with my parents, I didn't understand that things cost money.


It is important to realize in life that not everyone is like you and that different people have had multitudinous different experiences. This is what the colleges and so on try to capture with "diversity" but end up misguiding their efforts towards having rich overachieving Black kids as well as rich overachieving White kids. I, for example, was well aware that when I ate it cost my parents money.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:11 PM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


On the other hand, I linked a study with some 5,000 participants finding no correlation between social services and decisions to become pregnant, suggesting that a sense of entitlement had nothing to do with the story in this article

You linked to a story about not providing additional cash payments for additional children doesn't prevent women already on welfare from having more children. Do I have to reiterate that I don't think the girls are aiming to get pregnant because it will make them rich? Show me a study documenting what happens if an American pregnant 16-year-old gets jack shit and has to beg and sleep under a bridge. I feel obligated to remind everyone that I don't think that's a reasonable solution, but I bet it would result in lots fewer teen pregnancies and almost none where the baby is kept.

As for everyone suggesting that these girls have no knowledge of welfare or any forethought-- they see lots of single mothers in their community receiving state aid. They know that if you have a baby and don't have a job you get cash, food stamps and subsidized housing. Their friends get these things, and I don't think we can assume that their friends claim to be given their food and clothing by leprechauns. Everyone knows it comes from the state, collected from other people and given to them. They're poor, not retarded.

Of course, this being the Internet, someone is about to come along claiming to be "totally like a social worker and shit" and say that it's generally believed amongst welfare recipients that the checks are awards directly from Jesus for being a good person.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:29 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think the whole situation is very sad. I would suggest that the girls have abortions but I just skimmed the article and maybe some of the girls have already had the babies and then it is too late for my idea. Also, when you suggest abortion you're supposed to make it clear that you find the concept terrible and wish it did not happen but you want it to happen anyway. So I don't like abortions but those girls could totally do that!

The biggest problem here is poverty and it is very bad because LBJ wanted to build a Great Society but they never finished it. But maybe it is good that we have poor people because I learned from Pete Seeger songs that all poor people are saints and need to organize and maybe those girls in Gloucester should form a Baby Union and then they could get good pay for good work. But if they stop being poor do they stop being saints? Pete Seeger seems to think so, and he also thinks we should have hammers and something about not picking all the flowers.

In a perfect world we would all start out with a blank slate, which is the suggestion of a famous philosopher (but I took an "Incomplete" in my Philosophy 101 class so maybe I will go to Ask Metafilter next and find out who it was). If those girls had a blank slate the poverty wouldn't affect them and they could have become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or Colombian drug kingpins or whatever they wanted. So we should definitely have blank slates and that is the solution. Did the philosopher tell us how to get the blank slate?
posted by Mayor Peace Love and Unity at 8:49 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't have a good solution.

Given a series of bad and piss poor choices, the sanest approach seems to remove the babies from the teen mother's care, as you would with anyone else too incompetent to raise a child.

I really doubt being wards of the state would be worse than being raised by someone too young to make appropriate choices. It ends the financial incentive and insures the children are cared for in at least some supervised manner.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 9:05 PM on June 19, 2008


I really doubt being wards of the state would be worse than being raised by someone too young to make appropriate choices.

The foster care system: have you read about it?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:11 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


the sanest approach seems to remove the babies from the teen mother's care

Are you from the 1950s? What the fuck.
posted by peep at 9:21 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


The foster care system: have you read about it?

That's one of several choices including adoption, private orphanages, etc. Not to mention the funds currently going to welfare moms would fund foster care.

And even then, did you read about the young Ms. who basically starved a child to death because she didn't feed it anything but sugar water? At least the state has standards for care and there is some oversight. Someone having a baby without considering the means to support it already has a history of poor choices. Do you want/expect that person to be responsible for the care and well-being of a child?
posted by quintessencesluglord at 9:22 PM on June 19, 2008


nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together.

Then those girls need to fuck off together somewhere and raise those babies together. One or two at a time can stay home (wiping up shit and stuffing screaming mouths) while the others work at Burger King (wiping up shit and stuffing screaming mouths) to pay the rent on their crowded shared apartment and buy baby food and baby clothes. If each girl keeps at it about 20 hours a day, seven days a week, they should just about manage.
posted by pracowity at 9:40 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


This may be a manifestation of tribal culture that Marshal McLuhan predicted as a side effect of electronic media, back in the sixties. Young mothers need help and encouragement from everyone in the community, in Iceland there is not a stigma when this occurs.
I think it is not these girls who are fucked up,american culture is fucked up
posted by hortense at 9:43 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Any rational adult thinks about it taking care of a baby before deciding to get pregnant

Ha~ No, they do not. Lots of grown women just reallyreally want to have a kid so they do (probably men as well but less so, imho). I know tons of successful career women in their 30s who have made terrible choices in order to have a child (marrying an idiot being the most common) and who have entirely failed to understand what having a child really meant in terms of the day to day care.

Also there is no evidence that these girls are poor or grew up with an intimate knowledge of the welfare system.
posted by fshgrl at 10:22 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also there is no evidence that these girls are poor or grew up with an intimate knowledge of the welfare system.

Yes there is. They live in Gloucester and elected to get pregnant in high school by shabby dudes.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:43 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


As for everyone suggesting that these girls have no knowledge of welfare or any forethought-- they see lots of single mothers in their community receiving state aid. They know that if you have a baby and don't have a job you get cash, food stamps and subsidized housing. Their friends get these things, and I don't think we can assume that their friends claim to be given their food and clothing by leprechauns. Everyone knows it comes from the state, collected from other people and given to them. They're poor, not retarded.

Those friends that they see who are welfare are...partying on the town? Sporting the latest designer handbag? Living in an awesome neighborhood that's convenient to everything? Eating in restaurants? Having "fun?" Or are they demonstrating the easy breezy world of a having a happy munchkin to call their own, with adorable clothes and play dates at the park, and one of those giant strollers in which to idly stroll around the neighborhood, radiating warm fuzzies and sunshine and sweet new-baby smell?

Knowing that there's a welfare system and that the state will give you money, and having any real knowledge of that what that system provides and how it works -- these are two different things.
posted by desuetude at 6:17 AM on June 20, 2008


I just searched this comments page and, surprisingly, the words "contraception" and "birth control" are absent from it. (Though pyramid termite made an indirect reference to it.) Why is no one mentioning this? Did people read the article?

"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. "

And

"...she and the clinic's medical director, Dr. Brian Orr, a local pediatrician, began to advocate prescribing contraceptives regardless of parental consent, a practice at about 15 public high schools in Massachusetts. Currently Gloucester teens must travel about 20 miles (30 km) to reach the nearest women's health clinic; younger girls have to get a ride or take the train and walk. But the notion of a school handing out birth control pills has met with hostility. "

I'm aware that there are larger social and economic issues to be addressed, but I find it hard to believe that a community THAT hostile to the idea that their precious little flowers might be having sex is in any way providing quality sex-education AND life skills classes. I realize these girls made a pact to get pregnant, but clearly the community is fostering irresponsible attitudes when it tries to pretend that there's no situation in which responsible decisions are needed. There's something incredibly mind-boggling about how they're making a focused effort to support young mothers but don't try to prevent further teenage pregnancies.

And for the record, I think the idea that these girls are intentionally trying to become welfare queens is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. I grew up in Appalachia and am pretty familiar with the mentality. No one at that age envisions that as their future. Teenagers think they're invincible - these girls probably still want to be lawyers and veterinarians and have no clue how they've screwed things up for themselves. That or their home lives are so bleak that they're not even thinking of the future.
posted by signalandnoise at 6:42 AM on June 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Why is no one mentioning this? Did people read the article?

Because birth control doesn't work when you decide to get pregnant and so don't use it.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:45 AM on June 20, 2008


I'm guessing the chick that did the homeless dude was ugly or fat. Sorry but no hot girl in the bunch would go "hey you, homeless do, how about you bang me."

This whole companionship and longing is a bunch of bull. I had that as a teen in school but the very thought of my father beating the crap out of me was enough for me to remain a virgin until 19.

What ever happened to the fear-tactic style of parenting? Worked for a lot of us who never did drugs, had sex and got knocked up, etc.
posted by dasheekeejones at 6:51 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whatever happened to the idea of a parenting license? Having children shouldn't be a right.

Srsly, I hate teenage moms. Abortion ought to be mandatory for minors.

People have the right to have children, but nobody has the right to have an uncared for, uneducated child. Especially poor, idiotic teenagers. And no, no teenager has the mental wherewithal to make a decision about this, I don't care what anyone says about it - their judgmental abilities won't be fully developed until they're 25, they most likely haven't experienced living on their own, and they are probably not financially independent - and clearly, their brains are fucked up enough that they aren't having a child for the right reasons anyway (their self-esteem needs fixing). I call bullshit on anyone who says otherwise.
posted by kldickson at 6:52 AM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Things they probably have now that they probably wouldn't have in a few years:

-Health insurance
-Free day care
-Free education
-Free rent

And it's a stupid decision, how?


Because they won't have those things in a few years, but they'll still have children.
posted by shmegegge at 6:59 AM on June 20, 2008


Even if these young women got out their notepads and made careful budgets of their Burger King incomes

I think youre missing the point. Its not a burger king income. Its zero income plus a steady monthly check from the government because we dont want to see the baby starve. I see welfare as extortion. "Pay me now or the kid starves." Having a kid that young in some states is an easy way to get paid to watch TV for 18 years. The schools and TV will raise them. Its ultimately a supremely selfish act.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:03 AM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing the chick that did the homeless dude was ugly or fat. Sorry but no hot girl in the bunch would go "hey you, homeless do, how about you bang me."

Well, aren't you the witty one. Above I questioned Time's "homeless" descriptor to some degree - I tend to think it's likely guy is a nomad/migrant laborer/squatter/gutterpunk rather than the typical alky bum, but in general your bounds on believability need to be questioned.

People have the right to have children

Actually, when I think about rights, I can't quite manage to arrive at this one. It seems to me strict government control of reproduction would be bad, but I can't find much fault with the general idea of something like what China does.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:07 AM on June 20, 2008


Yes there is. They live in Gloucester and elected to get pregnant in high school by shabby dudes.

Enhanced that for you.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:25 AM on June 20, 2008


I'm guessing the chick that did the homeless dude was ugly or fat. Sorry but no hot girl in the bunch would go "hey you, homeless do, how about you bang me."

I've known a couple different smart, attractive girls who hooked up with charismatic young street dudes in high school or college. In practice, "homeless guy" covers a whole lot more ground than Mumbling Alcoholic Beardo Pushing Shopping Cart, TV/film tropes notwithstanding.

But at least you got to call some random girls you don't know fat and/or ugly, so, you know, go you.
posted by cortex at 7:46 AM on June 20, 2008 [11 favorites]


Srsly, I hate teenage moms.

Kicked your puppy, did they?

Abortion ought to be mandatory for minors.

I'm not even going there.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 8:05 AM on June 20, 2008


This thread has pretty much crushed my soul enough to last a good while.
posted by Tehanu at 8:14 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


This, people, this is what gay marriage causes.
posted by cmonkey at 8:23 AM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


This has certainly turned into an interesting thread. I'll be waiting to see what the O'Reillys say about these kids--and are they white? Will that affect the rightwingers' thinking in the future about "ghetto moms"? Also, I am just a little leery about this story--its sourcing is EXTREMELY thin. I'm willing to bet that some of these girls' moms will turn up and deny the whole pact thing.
Also, has anyone noted that teenagers' brains don't work in adult fashion and they have trouble thinking much beyond their immediate, self-centered existences?
posted by etaoin at 8:27 AM on June 20, 2008


I suppose the flip side to believe that teenage girls are old enough and mature enough to make private, informed decisions about getting an abortion -- and this is a position I stand by -- you must also believe that they can similarly make the choice to have a baby.

Well, you have to believe they have the right to make the choice to have a baby. You don't have to approve of that choice, nor do you have to believe that the choice is equally as good as its alternative. It's possible to be pro-choice while still believing that no woman should ever have an abortion.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:01 AM on June 20, 2008


I'll be waiting to see what the O'Reillys say about these kids--and are they white?

There's a good chance that a significant number -- and most likely the majority -- of the girls are white. 2000 Census Data indicates that 97% of the population in Gloucester is white.
posted by ericb at 9:13 AM on June 20, 2008


@cortex (your first post)--my thoughts exactly. Pact? Homeless guy is ONE OF the fathers? (Does that mean he's the father of ONE of the babies, or that he's the father of several of the babies?) Questions about elitism aside, that's just an interesting detail begging for explanation. So many interesting questions here, the most interesting of which aren't even covered by the article.

This reminds me a bit of the short story "Can You Say My Name?" by Carolyn Ferrell. Because I'm a fiction geek. (It's still under copyright, hence no link, sorry.) Teenage girls getting pregnant because they think it's the route to love--of one sort or another.
posted by Ms. Informed at 9:17 AM on June 20, 2008


I'm guessing the chick that did the homeless dude was ugly or fat. Sorry but no hot girl in the bunch would go "hey you, homeless do, how about you bang me."

Idiots from Time magazine call anyone homeless who doesn't pay rent or have a mortgage. In fact I know people who will call other people homeless if they're just renting. People are weird.

I know lots of hot women who have slept with so-called "homeless" guys. I personally was always pretty fond of them because they'd sleep over and often make breakfast in the morning (yay for hunger). I had a guy who moved in with me one summer and did all my dishes and most of my housework. He'd bring me home food from the restaurant he worked at and rub my feet while I ate it. He wanted to have babies with me. Perhaps this is a homeless guy theme? Note: I am not ugly or fat.

I also live in a rural town with a big teen pregnancy rate and we haven't seen any real uptick, fwiw. There's fuck-all you can do when you're a poor female teenager with a not-great education and likely a worse family situation. For a lot of these girls, having a baby means they can get out of their family situation and maybe, just maybe, start a less shitty family of their own. Time magazine saying the school is doing "too good" a job at supporting teen mothers by providing daycare [so they stay in school, ffs] has its head up its ass.
posted by jessamyn at 9:32 AM on June 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


Idiots
from Time magazine


You are wasting electrons by repeating yourself.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:47 AM on June 20, 2008


I'm horrified and saddened that it's 2008 and we've got people laying out so many base, horrific stereotypical proclamations.

Teenage mother ≠ bad mother
Poor mother ≠ bad mother
Welfare ≠ incentive for any parenting decision
Female teenaged bodies ≠ public property
Female teenage sexuality ≠ public property

Mandatory abortions? Welfare queens? I know this site is a boyzone but when the hell did it turn into a fascistzone?
posted by Dreama at 10:08 AM on June 20, 2008 [11 favorites]


What's Massachusetts law say about 24-year-old men have sex with girls 16 and under?
posted by pracowity at 10:16 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Note: I am not ugly or fat.

I'd hit it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:42 AM on June 20, 2008


Things they probably have now that they probably wouldn't have in a few years:

-Health insurance
-Free day care
-Free education
-Free rent

And it's a stupid decision, how?

Because they won't have those things in a few years, but they'll still have children.


And? Do children somehow become cheaper when you're thirty?
posted by sondrialiac at 10:45 AM on June 20, 2008


Those friends that they see who are welfare are...partying on the town? Sporting the latest designer handbag? Living in an awesome neighborhood that's convenient to everything? Eating in restaurants? Having "fun?" Or are they demonstrating the easy breezy world of a having a happy munchkin to call their own, with adorable clothes and play dates at the park, and one of those giant strollers in which to idly stroll around the neighborhood, radiating warm fuzzies and sunshine and sweet new-baby smell?

Knowing that there's a welfare system and that the state will give you money, and having any real knowledge of that what that system provides and how it works -- these are two different things.


I don't think the choice is between a stressful life of poverty while raising a kid on welfare and a happy financially secure life without a kid, it's between two different versions of stressful lives of poverty. I think Mayor Curley's first proposition, that the girls got pregnant because they would get welfare is less supportable than his second (closely related one) that the girls got pregnant, in part, because they knew that there would be assistance available for them if they had a baby. I'm a social worker and shit, I work with people who get pregnant early (I was just talking with a 38 yo patient who was telling me about her 'old' grandmother who is 62. Do the math.), and I also think that teen pregnancy would decrease significantly if mothers got no assistance and fathers were forced to pay for child care by meaningful consequences. This doesn't mean that teen mothers don't love their kids, or that fathers who don't pay any child support don't either. It just means that consequences contribute to how people make decisions, even if they aren't making pro and con lists.*

I also think that this notion that the girls got pregnant because something was "missing from their lives," (in context something emotional) is shitty and judgmental. It psychologically pathologizes the lives and families of a bug chunk of a community. It masquerades as a left critique, focusing on feelings and faux concern, while condescending to an entire community. What the lives of these girls are missing are opportunity, decent education, the possibility of a living wage, and even a modicum of concern from the chattering classes. I work in a community very like Gloucester in some ways, it had a different set of industries, but was similarly blighted by the closure of industry and the resulting poverty. They are communities where hard work used to buy some security, but where it buys fuckall now, when you can find it. There's no working class option available anymore, and service industry jobs may really not seem to be worth the time or effort. (This is why SEIU is the most important union in America right now.) The true left critique is Mayor Curley's (shared by others in the thread), an economic one, which points out that given the limited range of choices available for these girls, having a baby doesn't seem like such a bad choice. It may make life marginally more difficult, but at least it offers the promise (false or not) of some upside.

*Conversations about what kind of support is available are routinely a part of the very best kind of family planning: what's your maternity leave like, do you get subsidized child care at your job, will your parents be willing to help out a couple of days a week, are the public schools in our district good enough, does our state have a good 529 plan? We expect and support these conversations when middle-class (or "responsible" lower-class) parents have them, and we expect that the answers to some of these questions will guide the family planning process. We certainly don't shy away from admitting that these kinds of conversations take place because we think they reflect badly on the purity of motive of the prospective parents. Why is the assumption that welfare-class parents don't have some of the same considerations? Of course they do. People care about whether or not they'll be able to get help taking care of their babies.
posted by OmieWise at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


Pregnancy Pact, Girl Speaks Out: 'Group Interested In My Pregnancy'
"A group of 18 pregnant high school teenage girls may be part of a 'pregnancy pact' - but one girl is stepping forward, claiming some of the girls in the group seemed very interested in her pregnancy. ...One student, Christen Callahan, is a friend of the group of pregnant girls who had her baby at the age of 15. She says some of the girls from 'the group' suddenly became very interested in her pregnancy.

The student told 'The Today Show' that the girls were asking her a lot of questions about her pregnancy and questioning how their parents would react to them falling pregnant.

As for who fathered the babies? 'We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy,' Sullivan revealed.

Most of the 'dads' are in their 20s and may face statutory rape charges."
posted by ericb at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2008


Christen Callahan on the TODAY show [video | 8:47].
posted by ericb at 10:50 AM on June 20, 2008


how their parents would react to them falling pregnant.

Falling pregnant is a completely bizarre way to put that.

What's Massachusetts law say about 24-year-old men have sex with girls 16 and under?

According to the TODAY show, they may be in some serious trouble. Which is another bizarre turn this whole story has taken. These guys are probably the older boyfriend types that are pretty typical in these sorts of situations -- they have a car, they have an apartment, they have liquor, they might have jobs -- and it will be interesting to see if people are more concerned with statutory charges than paternity assessment and follow-through once this whole thing has big media attention.

As OmieWise says above, we're laxer as a society towards deadbeat dads in these situations and spend more time being like "OMG SEX" My mom spent more time threatening to have my older boyfriends arrested than she did talking to me about birth control. I'm sure these girls' parents were no better than that and likely worse.
posted by jessamyn at 10:56 AM on June 20, 2008


Omiewise, my point was that Mayor Curley was asserting that they got this great idea to get pregnant because the "state pays you to stay home and watch The Price Is Right while you yell at little Brandine to keep quiet" because they have seen the subsidized housing, food stamps, etc that mothers receive.

I was expanding upon my previous comment that this attitude requires them to be very selective in their perception of that free money, lest they think more soberly about, as you point out, a choice between two different versions of lives of poverty.

given the limited range of choices available for these girls, having a baby doesn't seem like such a bad choice. It may make life marginally more difficult, but at least it offers the promise (false or not) of some upside.

I agree with this point. Perhaps I was having difficulty discerning that it was Mayor Curley's point through the dripping sarcasm.
posted by desuetude at 11:04 AM on June 20, 2008


Falling pregnant is a completely bizarre way to put that.

I'm wondering if it's a regional thing. Google has about 100K for "fall pregnant" and another 50K for "falling pregnant". Sounds bizarre to me, too.

If you run with the pregnancy-as-illness notion, though, it kind of makes sense. He fell ill; she fell pregnant. Huh.
posted by cortex at 11:18 AM on June 20, 2008


Falling pregnant

Jumping pregnant.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:24 AM on June 20, 2008


Fall is also a passive word choice. Which may mean nothing, but it is suggestive.
posted by Tehanu at 11:25 AM on June 20, 2008


I also think that this notion that the girls got pregnant because something was "missing from their lives," (in context something emotional) is shitty and judgmental. It psychologically pathologizes the lives and families of a bug chunk of a community. It masquerades as a left critique, focusing on feelings and faux concern, while condescending to an entire community. What the lives of these girls are missing are opportunity, decent education, the possibility of a living wage, and even a modicum of concern from the chattering classes.

The idea that some of them wanted a baby to love them was implied by the article linked to in the post. But it was based on one peer's quote, so it could very well be entirely wrong. I do think there's a big difference between thinking maybe they were motivated by wanting someone to love them (that really does happen) and the "oh they did it because they needed someone to love them-- they come from broken homes" type oversimplifying patronizing stuff that often is said when these kinds of things are reported.

Like this description: "girls who lack self-esteem and have a lack of love in their life." Associated Press.

And in no way does that motivation, true or not, eliminate the need for real economic and educational opportunities.
posted by Tehanu at 11:41 AM on June 20, 2008


MetaFilter: a bug chunk of a community
posted by Sys Rq at 11:54 AM on June 20, 2008


Yeah, the article really doesn't address the men/boys involved. Most are in their 20s? How does that happen? Did this 'pregnancy pact' also involve some sort of 'sleeping with older men' clause?
posted by graventy at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2008


I blame Gossip Girl, mainly because I have never seen it and it's popular.
posted by drezdn at 12:07 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


There was a study done, which, dammit, I cannot find since I am about to leave the house, that interviewed girls very like these. The researchers concluded that they were in fact making logical choices; having kids young meant their own mothers were young too, and available to help; putting off childbearing, with little hope of stable work or marriages in their future, was not a logical thing to do--there was no reward, and possible downsides. Their only other choice was not to have kids at all, which also did nothing to ensure they would have a better future.

I think it might help to remember that historically speaking and still in many parts of the world, teenage motherhood was/is the norm. Late teens/early 20s is when you are often at your healthiest and have the most energy to raise kid(s). Our "normal" middle class teens who don't marry or procreate till nearly 30 or later are products of our culture, not our biology.

What is unusual and interesting about these girls--and, I suspect, what pisses some off--is that they were open about choosing when and how to become pregnant, and did not feel required to marry anyone or even have a real relationship with the fathers/sperm donors. Which is a freedom that seems to be every anti-choicer's nightmare, but that rightfully belongs to every woman. I don't find their story a "hard test" of pro-choice positiions at all--it's not their pregnancy I feel bad about, it's their lack of options in general.
posted by emjaybee at 12:27 PM on June 20, 2008 [9 favorites]


I'd hit it.

Noooooo!
posted by Pax at 1:17 PM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


I suspect, what pisses some off--is that they were open about choosing when and how to become pregnant, and did not feel required to marry anyone or even have a real relationship with the fathers/sperm donors.

I suspect youre wrong. The problem is, and has always been, having children when you cannot afford it usually leads to a life on welfare, not some bullshit empowerment statement.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:12 PM on June 20, 2008


I suspect, what pisses some off...

I know what pisses many off.

There's a system for saving girls who unwillingly find themselves pregnant and unable to handle it alone. That's great. No one wants to see starving young mothers and children. But maintaining support for that system, maintaining political will and plenty o' public funding, depends on making sure it is used as intended, not abused by gormless slackers. People don't want to see a gaggle of girls willingly, quite purposefully, throw themselves into that system, because the system isn't free, it can't take everyone, it doesn't do a great job as it is, the kids don't have an easy time growing up, and, what probably matters most to many, taking advantage of the system just isn't the fair and right thing to do.

Of course, these girls could choose not to avail themselves of that system. They could take a pass on welfare, food stamps, etc., realizing that they should be responsible for the results of their own actions, and they could leave those benefits to girls who had no choice, or who at least accidentally, even quite stupidly, but not intentionally, became pregnant at 15 or 16. Their parents could (belatedly?) step up and take responsibility for what these girls are up to and take responsibility for at least making sure their grandchildren turned out right. Girls and parents could work together to see that these babies, their children and grandchildren, are raised decently without falling back on the state for everything. Then, I think, not many people would mind one bit what some ditzy Gloucester High girls do with their lives. But do you think that's what these girls and their parents are going to do?
posted by pracowity at 3:21 PM on June 20, 2008


I know what pisses many off.
Yes, clearly what pisses people off is that that they can only impotently rage at these girls, casting the worst kinds of aspersions on their intellects, their morality and their ability to parent, accusing them of being freeloaders and cheats, sluts, ditzs, the worst examples of irresponsible living and of having not "turned out right" before most of them have even given birth, without any actual knowledge that a single one of them will ever take a penny in government aid, that any of them will be in any way neglectful or incapable with their children or the benefit of a crystal ball to know what their futures will be.

People are clearly pissed off that they cannot control these girls' decisions, their sexuality or their fertility. They are pissed off that they cannot mandate that they terminate their pregnancies based solely on their age or socioeconomic status.

They're pissed off that they cannot preemptively pull the plug on their eligibility for assistance based on some antiquated and onerous notion of "that'll learn ya, ya brazen hussies, going around getting pregnant at just the time in your lives that you're physically most capable of doing so healthily."

And all that? Pisses me off.
posted by Dreama at 4:07 PM on June 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


the system isn't free, it can't take everyone,

I hardly think that a couple dozen (or even a couple thousand) welfare checks are going to bankrupt the US. We spend more on any number of programs that are a lot less useful than keeping people from starving to death r becoming criminals to support their kids. Jiminy Cricket.
posted by fshgrl at 5:53 PM on June 20, 2008


As someone who knows multiple women who got pregnant young (a couple of them were even on public assistance at times), and as someone raised by a rad woman who was herself on welfare for a significant chunk of his adolescence, I'd like to extend a hearty "Fuck you" to some of the posters in this thread.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled rush to judgment.
posted by the_bone at 8:24 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hardly think that a couple dozen (or even a couple thousand) welfare checks are going to bankrupt the US. We spend more on any number of programs on the War in Iraq -- to a tune of $341.4 million per day. Overall cost projected (as of March 9, 2008): The Iraq War Will Cost Us $3 Trillion, and Much More.
posted by ericb at 8:29 PM on June 20, 2008


Yes, clearly what pisses people off is that that they can only impotently rage at these girls, casting the worst kinds of aspersions on their intellects, their morality and their ability to parent, accusing them of being freeloaders and cheats, sluts, ditzs, the worst examples of irresponsible living and of having not "turned out right" before most of them have even given birth, without any actual knowledge that a single one of them will ever take a penny in government aid, that any of them will be in any way neglectful or incapable with their children or the benefit of a crystal ball to know what their futures will be.

People are clearly pissed off that they cannot control these girls' decisions, their sexuality or their fertility. They are pissed off that they cannot mandate that they terminate their pregnancies based solely on their age or socioeconomic status.

They're pissed off that they cannot preemptively pull the plug on their eligibility for assistance based on some antiquated and onerous notion of "that'll learn ya, ya brazen hussies, going around getting pregnant at just the time in your lives that you're physically most capable of doing so healthily."

And all that? Pisses me off.


Get over yourself.

Having a kid before you can legally vote or buy a beer, much less before you have a decent education, sets in motion a series of easily avoided as well as unforeseen consequences that takes a toll on any society, no different than choosing not to wear a helmet or seatbelt and expecting society to pay your ICU bills, or eating three squares of fast food a day and expecting your medical bills to be gratis when you need your second diabetic induced amputation. Maybe people aren't as gentle or eloquent, PC or tactful in voicing their concerns over teenagers having children, but it's kept from becoming a goddamn societal nightmare only by virtue of the numbers. I see these cases every day. Most of these kids are sweet and actually make pretty decent (not great by any stretch) parents, but not a one will likely ever attend college, and most of them survive by virtue of their own parents taking cuts in pay to stay home and help raise the grandkids.
posted by docpops at 9:59 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, so, I'm an intelligent (arguably) adult guy in my late 30s, and my wife is a tad older than me. We waited to have children until we were stable and had good incomes and could afford a house, and then it still took a couple of years due to infertility issues, so we had lots of time to think.

And here's what happened: despite all of our planning and reading and discussing and getting prepared for the whole thing, when our twins arrived we were both simply knocked on our asses about how hard it was to raise infants.

The reason why is simple: she was an only child, I was a youngest child, and neither of us had any personal experience raising children, nor did we know anyone who had. Honestly, I didn't realize it at the time, but despite my best efforts most of my expectations were set by the mass media I'd been exposed to over the years and books on the subject that glossed over the hard stuff and made it seem like it'd all be all right.

The reason a lot of people have kids, regardless of age, even though they're ill-prepared to handle it is simply because a lot of people don't have the practical, first-hand knowledge of what it's really like. You want to be a race car driver, right? You drive, right? How hard could it be? Well, it's really fucking hard. You want to be a fireman, right? You're brave, right? How scary could it be? Really fucking scary, actually. You want to have a baby? Hey, you've babysat, right? You've read all the books, you know? You're a fully-functioning adult, how hard could it be? Really really hard at times.

Forget welfare, it's a Red Herring: these kids got pregnant because their bodies are screaming at them to have sex, and as far as they know (from television and movies, not from personal experience) is that it's kinda hard but fun, too, just like the sitcoms, so how hard could it be?

I would love to see a study where the number of intentional teen pregnancies were broken up between kids who had to help raise a sibling and those who did not; I sincerely wonder how those numbers would fall.
posted by davejay at 11:05 PM on June 20, 2008


not sure why I capitalized red herring there.
posted by davejay at 11:06 PM on June 20, 2008


I know why. We've found the father.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:59 AM on June 21, 2008


Having a kid before you can legally vote or buy a beer, much less before you have a decent education, sets in motion a series of easily avoided as well as unforeseen consequences that takes a toll on any society
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:08 AM on June 21, 2008


Also, has anyone noted that teenagers' human brains don't work in adult fashion and they have trouble thinking much beyond their immediate, self-centered existences?
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:20 PM on June 21, 2008


Most of these kids are sweet and actually make pretty decent (not great by any stretch) parents, but not a one will likely ever attend college, and most of them survive by virtue of their own parents taking cuts in pay to stay home and help raise the grandkids.

And if we had a society that valued the work of parenting, that valued education, that wasn't run by people with the same punitive attitude that's pervasive through this thread and thought about concepts like providing people with access to healthcare - including contraceptives and comprehensive sexual education - and maternity leave and access to quality and affordable childcare none of this would be true, at all.

So no, I will not get over myself.
posted by Dreama at 3:23 PM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


They all stayed in school, no doubt majoring in gormless slackerhood.
posted by lukemeister at 5:11 PM on June 21, 2008


They all stayed in school, no doubt majoring in gormless slackerhood.

Yes, going to school full time and caring for a newborn infant is the height of "slackerhood."
posted by sondrialiac at 9:24 PM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's amazing that there are people commenting here actually defending the girls' actions. Dreama would hug the girls and tell them to pump out more kids to waste resources that they didn't pay for. I'd be appalled, but I need the occasional reminder that American liberalism is comfortable with people like that in its tent so that I won't ever be tempted to return to it. I almost want to become a full-on Maoist just out of spite. Holy shit!
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:03 PM on June 21, 2008


It's weird how fixated you are on the welfare thing.
posted by cortex at 10:54 PM on June 21, 2008


Curley, you still don't know what/if/how much welfare or state assistance these girls will take...and none of that will preclude them from going out, getting jobs, and paying taxes, eventually, just like everyone else. Provided they can find jobs. The question really is, would they find them if they were acting the way the posters here think they should...stay in school, graduate? Does that guarantee they can afford college or find a job?

I'm not applauding anything; I'm pointing out that in their situation this choice may not in fact be all that catastrophic, because there isn't much else ahead of them, and at least this makes them feel useful and productive. That's pretty sad, but ranting about welfare queens does nothing to get at possible solutions.

Oh I found the study I mentioned, though I can only get the abstract:
Teenage childbearing as cultural prism; Arline T Geronimus, British Medical Bulletin, Volume 69, Number 1, December 2004 , pp. 155-166(12)

And more helpfully, the online discussion that led me to hear about her.
posted by emjaybee at 12:36 AM on June 22, 2008


Mayor Curley, you have no idea what I'd do with these girls. Don't ascribe motives and actions to me. You cannot speak for me.
posted by Dreama at 12:50 AM on June 22, 2008


It's weird how fixated you are on the welfare thing.

I'm a recovering Communist and I'm still deeply offended by parasites of all varieties. I should call my Sponsor because I can think of a few people I'd like to see in a gulag right now.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:19 AM on June 22, 2008


I love babies. That's where I'm a viking!
posted by RussHy at 6:43 AM on June 22, 2008


I'm gonna posit the crazy notion here that recovering and fleeing aren't exactly the same thing. I don't totally disagree with some of the core ideas you're presenting, but you sound like when you ran screaming you accidentally stumbled into Ayn Rand and haven't realized it yet.
posted by cortex at 7:49 AM on June 22, 2008


If it's all about the welfare benefits, why do countries with more generous benefits than the U.S. have much lower teen pregnancy rates?

From TEENAGE PREGNANCY, POVERTY AND THE WELFARE DEBATE IN EUROPE AND THE UNITED STATES (PDF):

Cuts in benefits to unmarried teenage mothers have been proposed and justified as both reducing public expenditure and removing perverse incentives to extramarital childbearing. Yet the evidence that young women get pregnant to obtain state benefits or housing is hard to find and countries with more generous welfare systems have much lower teenage fertility rates...

[Section on Britain:] Yet the assumption that pregnant teenagers are cynically seeking a council house or welfare payments remains unsubstantiated and most studies show teenagers to be amazed at such suggestions or to be largely unaware of such possibilities (Phoenix, 1991). Preliminary findings of research carried out under the ESRC Household and Change Programme (Allen et al., 1998; Berthould et al., 1998) show no evidence to suggest that teenagers become pregnant to get council housing or additional social security benefits...

[Section on the U.S.:] AFDC is said to encourage young unmarried women to have babies they would not otherwise have had. As in Britain the evidence to support these ideas is wanting (Wilcox et al., 1996). If welfare benefits encourage teenage births, we should expect more young single mothers in Sweden where the welfare system is generous rather than in the USA which provides less support for single mothers than any other industrialised country (Luker, 1996). Most recent reviews of research on welfare and fertility (Duncan and Hoffman, 1990; Moffit, 1992; Wilcox et al., 1996) conclude that there is no evidence that welfare is a major influence on adolescent childbearing... It has also been pointed out (Moffit, 1992) that the real value of AFDC payments and food stamps declined throughout the period during which non-marital births to teenagers has been rising...

posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:34 AM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a recovering Communist and I'm still deeply offended by parasites of all varieties.

children are not parasites and have no control over who they're born to
posted by pyramid termite at 9:12 AM on June 22, 2008


children are not parasites and have no control over who they're born to

I was referring to the mothers. I wholeheartedly agree with you.

but you sound like when you ran screaming you accidentally stumbled into Ayn Rand and haven't realized it yet.

Sounds like it to you because that's the only philosophy you can think of that's strongly against idleness. But Rand was actually more concerned with the idleness of intellectuals who tried to impose rules to bring down "exceptional people" to mediocrity rather than aspiring to climb. Workers who refuse to work at the expense of other workers wasn't a big deal to her. Whether you're willing to see it or not, American liberalism isn't where the left stops. And if you could wipe the Capitalism out of your eyes you might find it deeply offensive that some folks elect to get knocked up and go on the state at the expense of other workers. You probably know this, but haven't applied it in this context-- wealthy people and corporations game the system and don't really pay anything. The ants are paying for these pregnant grasshoppers. It almost makes me wish we had a Chairman Mao to say "everyone else has to work, you're going to fucking work." Part of wanting better conditions for working people is being appalled when some of the capital they receive is siphoned off to give to people who refuse to work. It's the same thought that makes me appalled at taking wages to pay for a war designed to line the pockets of the elite. But by all means, think of me as a Randroid if you're convinced that's the only way I could possibly resent people who live off of capital produced by others. I should have given a discourse on my entire position at the start to explain to people who think that political positions are a vertical line with exactly four points starting with Rand admirers and ending with capital L Liberals.

DISCLAIMER: I know we're much better off NOT having a system like that, and the people who exploit labor through controlling the means of production are much more offensive than these pathetic souls. But I can't understand why anyone would defend them.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:25 AM on June 22, 2008


Sounds like it to you because that's the only philosophy you can think of that's strongly against idleness.

No, it's the only philosophy which has so consistently produced, in my personal experience, acolytes willing to frame an argument against idleness in such insistent and silly terms. If you truly can't understand why sane people would have some sympathy for these girls, yeah, you come off like a sophomore Objectivist or something.

I kind of doubt that's the case—you seem like a smart guy and I get the feeling it's more that you don't see much profit in trying to make a rhetoric-free point here when you could go into bull-snark mode instead and have a good time with it—but that's how it sounds.
posted by cortex at 12:44 PM on June 22, 2008


The thing about the welfare thing is that I'd bet a lot of the people you'd hear bitching about that (not the good Mayor, who seems to be much more cogent) have accountants doing their tax deductions, government subsidies, mortgage bailouts, etc. but government handouts are only bad when they're for the poor.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:45 PM on June 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mayor: No evidence pregnancy pact is real.

This jibes with what my sister-in-law, who works in teen pregnancy awareness and prevention in the state of Massachusetts emailed me over the weekend, which was:
"Don't take the "pregnancy pact" piece seriously - it's heresay from the school committee there and we really don't have any evidence it's the truth. There's some really bad reporting going on, frankly."
I hope that some of the more vitriolic posters in this thread will reconsider their anger.
posted by dersins at 1:23 PM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


From the CNN article regarding today's press conference:
"Conspicuously absent from that meeting was Gloucester High School Principal Joseph Sullivan, who has not responded to repeated requests for comment after he was quoted last week in a Time magazine story saying the girls planned to get pregnant together....[Gloucester Mayor Carolyn] Kirk said she and Superintendent Christopher Farmer have been in touch with Sullivan, and that he was 'foggy in his memory' about how he came to believe there was a pact.

'When pressed, his memory failed,' Kirk said.

Authorities have talked to school and health officials who work most closely with the children and, Kirk said, 'The people that worked with the children on a daily basis have said there has been no mention whatsoever of a pact.'

Kirk said the spike in pregnancies is in keeping with similar spikes in other cities."
posted by ericb at 3:15 PM on June 23, 2008


UPI:
"'I am not able to confirm the existence of a pact,' Kirk told reporters Monday. 'Any planned blood oath to become pregnant -- there is no evidence. Beyond the statement of the principal, we have no evidence there was a pact. The principal could not remember who told him that.'

Gloucester School Board Chairman Greg Verga also said none of the girls had confirmed any pact...

Ray Lamont, editor of the Gloucester Daily Times, says his reporters covering the issue didn't find any pact."
posted by ericb at 3:20 PM on June 23, 2008


Well, I appreciate his willingness to inject the phrase "blood oath" into the proceedings, at least.
posted by cortex at 3:37 PM on June 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kirk is a she. ; )
posted by ericb at 5:18 PM on June 23, 2008


James T. Kirk is all man, bucko.

I have no idea where I am.
posted by cortex at 5:22 PM on June 23, 2008


wanna bet that somewhere in america some teenagers are now making such a pact?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:18 PM on June 23, 2008


Mandatory abortions? Welfare queens? I know this site is a boyzone but when the hell did it turn into a fascistzone?

The facist stuff comes, I think, as a direct consequence from the perceived externalities imposed on society by these young ladies' choices to have children that they can't afford. It's a pretty direct consequence: when something you do has costs associated with it that end up with the taxpayers, suddenly everyone starts to have a say in how you live your life. After all, they're effectively bankrolling it. (See also seatbelt laws, and if we ever have public healthcare I'm quite certain it'll be followed quickly by smoking and high-fat food bans; nobody likes paying for their neighbor's "irresponsible" lifestyle.)

In general, you could sum up U.S. attitudes (generalizing very broadly, of course) as something like "live and let live, as long as I don't have to pay for it." With the exception of sexuality, most regulation of private life in the U.S. is done at least ostensibly for reasons of social costs, either real or perceived.

I think this is related to why you also don't see the sort of safety net for young mothers in the U.S. that you see in Iceland. Absent a consensus that we want to outright encourage young women to have children (as perhaps exists in Iceland?), most public funding in the U.S. is aimed at helping children -- since they don't have any say into their situation -- rather than at mothers directly. Although in many cases it helps mothers in order to help children, rarely are mothers the sole intended beneficiary. Nobody wants to craft policy that might inadvertently create, or be perceived as creating, a perverse incentive. (I won't lie and say that there's not some pretty nasty slut-punishing tied up in this attitude as well, but I really don't think that's the dominant motivation for policy.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:26 PM on June 23, 2008


Well, I appreciate his willingness to inject the phrase "blood oath" into the proceedings, at least.

I heard that statement on the radio last night, and my first thought was to be annoyed with her for making the very idea of a pact sound like something out of a crappy horror flick. It sounded very much like the whole thing is now some twisted combination of face-saving and rumor.
posted by Tehanu at 9:12 AM on June 24, 2008


face-saving

TOO LATE
posted by cortex at 9:20 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interview with one of the pregnant couples, discussing the nature of the "pact".

America: where pregnant teenagers have more sense than the media and the authorities.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:20 AM on June 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can anyone prove that they weren't ugly or fat?

Then don't get all PC about it.
posted by dasheekeejones at 7:59 AM on June 25, 2008


Can anyone prove that they weren't ugly or fat?

Do you ever have anything to add to the site that's not a useless turd, dasheekeejones? I ask because you seem to be obsessed with whether people are ugly and fat. Is this because you are ugly and / or fat yourself, and feel the need to create an ironic distance between yourself and your condition? I'm just curious, really.

In any event, in the comment immediately preceding yours, TheOnlyCoolTim linked to a video of one of the girls being interviewed, which appears to answer your "question."
posted by dersins at 8:11 AM on June 25, 2008




Can anyone prove that they weren't ugly or fat?

Uh, they're pregnant.
posted by desuetude at 8:54 AM on June 25, 2008


Why isn't the principal a seriously uneasy target? This whole thing sounds to me like the principal's ability to successfully communicate with teenagers (presumably a highly-desired skill in his position?) and provide appropriate leadership is lacking, to say the least. And now he's embarrassed the community and himself.

Of course, he "can't remember" which teenager told him about this pact. Anyone else think that it was probably a sarcastic aside by some girl annoyed to be dragged to the principals office to discuss "her condition?"
posted by desuetude at 9:05 AM on June 25, 2008


Some of the pregnant girls made a pact to help each other finish school and raise the babies. The school nurse thought some of them looked disappointed to not be pregnant. An older student who had a baby says some of them asked about her baby a lot. That Time article had a lot of intriguing conjecture, so we arrive at HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS MAKE PACT TO GET PREGNANT!

It's difficult to know what is and isn't true from the article itself, quotes from people in the town who aren't the girls, and from the reactions that have followed.
posted by Tehanu at 10:18 AM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


the principal's ability to successfully communicate with teenagers (presumably a highly-desired skill in his position?)

It's definitely a plus, but in my experience it's rarely the Principal who actually deals with students on a daily basis. Counselors and to an extent VPs handled almost all of the direct non-teacher student communication when I was in school, with the Principal speaking at assemblies and rallies but otherwise being more a business administrator than a talker.

Now, if the Principal isn't communicating with his VPs and counselors and other staff, that's a problem, and regardless I agree that it sounds like there was some serious communication breakdown in all of this. But I'm not sure that the principal-to-teenager gap is the key one.
posted by cortex at 10:46 AM on June 25, 2008


I should'a put a "faint sarcasm" tag in there. But my point was that the Principal of a high school is presumably dimly aware that teenagers are prone to gossip and hyperbole. Before raising the red flag on the PREGNANCY PACT, he should have suspected miscommunication or sarcasm or exaggeration or rumor.
posted by desuetude at 10:53 AM on June 25, 2008


Right. Agreed.
posted by cortex at 10:57 AM on June 25, 2008


I think the real mistake the principal made was talking to a reporter.
posted by Tehanu at 10:59 AM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


...especially a reporter who is apparently unfamiliar with the idea of fact-checking.
posted by desuetude at 12:58 PM on June 25, 2008


Can anyone prove that they weren't ugly or fat?

Uh, they're pregnant.


</Romy and Michelles High School Reunion>
posted by Artw at 1:03 PM on June 25, 2008


...especially a reporter who is apparently unfamiliar with the idea of fact-checking.

My general impression? Fact-checking, like asking probing follow-up questions during interviews, is no longer a skill that's encouraged. Writing a piece on a perceived trend based on anecdotal evidence seems to be the thing to do nowadays. Plus if you're story is not what it seems, you get to write follow-ups on the "developing situation" and "continued controversy."
posted by Tehanu at 1:17 PM on June 25, 2008


you're your

Hello preview. How are you today?
posted by Tehanu at 1:18 PM on June 25, 2008


The worst thing that grammar trolls have done is forcing us to reflexively do crap like that...
posted by Artw at 1:20 PM on June 25, 2008


Considering how much writing I see that uses semicolons as the primary form of punctuation; I am obliged to think that perhaps the grammar trolls aren't being loud and obnoxious enough; but maybe I'm just a grammar troll myself; it's difficult to self-assess.
posted by Tehanu at 1:33 PM on June 25, 2008


Mainly I use the semicolon when I’ve hit it by accident reaching for the apostrophe. But then you should see my apostrophe use…
posted by Artw at 1:37 PM on June 25, 2008


Poor grammar is about the only thing that these pregnancies haven't been attributed to. I bet that homeless guy's subject-verb agreement is just terrible.
posted by Tehanu at 1:44 PM on June 25, 2008


Writing a piece on a perceived trend based on anecdotal evidence seems to be the thing to do nowadays.

Yep. Any day now we'll likely see a "teens say pregnancy is cool" trend article in the NYT's Style section.
posted by ericb at 1:53 PM on June 25, 2008


An elipses can indicate a pregnant pause; if these girls had just used a damn comma they wouldn't be in this mess.
posted by cortex at 1:53 PM on June 25, 2008


And The Guardian will follow-up with some sort of "teen pregnancy" list!
posted by ericb at 1:54 PM on June 25, 2008


No, they would have still missed their periods.
posted by yhbc at 1:57 PM on June 25, 2008


They do sort of look like little sperms.

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

Eww.
posted by Artw at 2:00 PM on June 25, 2008


"teens say pregnancy is cool" trend article in the NYT's Style section.

Perhaps we'll see a steampunk pregnancy with a little stovepipe and boiler grill added on to someones tummy.
posted by Artw at 2:01 PM on June 25, 2008


Perhaps we'll see a steampunk pregnancy with a little stovepipe and boiler grill added on to someones tummy.

I think Cory Doctorow just peed his pants a little.
posted by dersins at 2:11 PM on June 25, 2008




“I told her no, because my sources had informed me that a significant number of the pregnancies, especially among the younger students, were the result of deliberate and intentional behavior,” Sullivan said.

The principal said his only direct source of information about the intentional pregnancies was the former nurse practitioner at the health center. He said he also heard “verbal staff reports and student/staff chatter.”


Ah. So...gossip. Oh, and some speculation based on second-hand reports. Yeah, that's probably the whole story.

Whatever he means by "intentional behavior" (um, unprotected sex?) does not necessarily prove a "pregnancy pact," whatever he means by that. His public insistence that his characterization of these girls' actions is accurate is getting increasingly insulting.
posted by desuetude at 6:43 AM on June 27, 2008


This story just keeps getting uglier:
BEVERLY, Mass.—The Horribles Parade in an affluent area north of Boston is supposed to poke fun and feature all things politically incorrect. But a float that spoofed the spike in teen pregnancies in a nearby city was too much for three parade judges.

The annual Fourth of July Horribles parade in Beverly Farms included a float with dancing girls with pillows stuffed under their shirts.

That offended Carolyn Kirk, mayor of Gloucester, a working class city 30 miles north of Boston that made headlines last month when a high school principal told Time magazine that some of the 17 students who became pregnant this school year had made a pact to do so.
See also.
Stay classy, rich girls. Stay classy.
posted by dersins at 11:21 AM on July 7, 2008


This is probably one of those stories that ends up both as a Law and Order:SVU and Law and Order: Original Recipe Extra Tasty Crispy episode. In the first Stabler worries that his "only mentioned when convenient" daughter was involved, and nearly kills one of the dads.
posted by drezdn at 1:35 PM on July 7, 2008


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