website statistics

How the media covered the teen pregnancy outbreak


This post is by Jess, one of our fabulous Trixie Films interns:

There is a fascinating article from Time magazine about the sexual decisions of a group of young women in Gloucester, Massachusetts. All under the age of 16, they collectively decided to get pregnant and raise their children together independent of the support from their families or the fathers.

[Update:Apparently, it wasn't a pact. There are just a whole heck of a lot of girls getting pregnant in Gloucester.]

The journalist for this piece chose to frame the information in a way that reflects the teens' reckless behavior in contrast with the Catholic community, a community that is apparently not upholding traditional Christian values since part of the explanation for the behavior is that these girls all come from "broken homes."

The quote that really floored me was the following: "The high school perhaps has done too good a job of embracing young mothers." Gloucester High School has proclaimed a commitment to helping young mothers finish their high school education, and yet, even the journalist appears to be somewhat skeptical of the value of this commitment.

It seems contradictory that the families in this town are blaming the school system for a breakdown of their own values because health care providers and teachers want to provide contraception options to these 15-year-olds. There aren't any reproductive health clinics near by, and teen pregnancy is a regular issue for the community anyway. If the families are not taking the matter into their own hands to discuss this with their young women, then what is supposed to happen to further their education and personal options? Noting the influence of pop culture in films such as Juno also appears to be an attempt to assign responsibility largely to external factors in the lives of these young women.

An 18-year-old mother who just graduated from the high school said, "They're so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally," and that she was constantly told how lucky she was to have a child. Even more interesting is that one of the fathers was a random older man, as though these young women really didn't want the men to be in the picture at all.

It would be more illuminating to explore the issue of why these young women are thinking this way, and why they are really convinced that they ought to take such serious steps to do this. Rather than treating the whole thing as a spectacle or some form of shock-value entertainment, a thorough exploration of relevant issues should take place.

Note: Another Time story, "Give the Gloucester Girls a Break", by Nancy Gibbs offers some more thoughts on the pregnancy epedemic, including attitudes towards abortion in this Catholic community.