Gloucester Girls Say What?

by Lani BlechmanPEP Young Women's Leadership Council

Last week I asked my favorite blogger, Haute Femme Trash, what she thought about the Gloucester teen pregnancies. And she responded in the post Im glad you asked.... She ended the blog with What do you think, Lani? So here it is:

Im appalled. Im shocked. Im pissed off. And Im disgusted. Its been weeks since the story first broke on national and international press. And over a week since I stopped reading it. The voices that are being aired the Gloucester top school officials and teen pregnancy experts are not those of the young women whose choices and decisions are being scrutinized. And Im not interested in hearing anyone but the young women themselves. If the nation and the world want to talk about teen pregnancies and teen parenting, and especially if they want to condemn these experiences, then the young women and men who are pregnant & parenting are the first voices that need to be listened to. I want to hear what they have to say, not what they are allegedly saying.

I am not a teen mom, nor was I ever pregnant as a teen, but in my personal and political life I strive to support, listen to, and raise the voices of young parents. I have often talked to my close friends about starting a family, about giving birth, and raising our children together. Im only a few years older than the young women in Gloucester, and if I were to get pregnant today along with a few of my friends, would we make headline news? Probably not. There might be some commentary on how a young woman loses her chance to succeed in life by carrying out a pregnancy before finishing her college degree. Or maybe some conservative right-wing statement on how queer families are destroying our youth and ruining family values (with my story as an example). Or maybe there might be a cute little article about how young people are creating their own social networks where childcare responsibility is collectively shared. In any case, BBC wouldnt say anything about it.

I do hope that all of this media attention in Gloucester results in some positive change. Like comprehensive sex education and approval of the school clinics plan to distribute confidential contraception. Like more attention to the fact that the closest reproductive health center is 30 miles away. Like more educational and economic support for teen parents in Gloucester, and Massachusetts, and the U.S.

Im scared though. Im scared that a reported rise is teen pregnancies could result in renewed eugenic efforts like pushing dangerous long-term contraceptives on young women (specifically low-income young women and young women of color). Im scared that somehow the right-wing will take hold of this and use it to reinstate abstinence-only education when over 30 states have rejected federal funding for it. Im scared that Hollywood will be censored and films like Juno that I see as a great entry point for discussion of teen pregnancy, parenting, and abortion will be blamed instead of honestly talked about.

That all being said, Im going to stop talking. Im going to stop talking until the young women who are being talked about get a chance to be heard.


Photograph by Steve Rhodes.