Below is an excerpt from Girlmom's mission statement, written by the website's first editor, Allison Crews. Allison became a fierce mother to Cade at age 15 and passed away in 2005 when she was just 22. Her life inspired all of us.
Girlmom.com is a website designed and moderated BY and FOR young mothers. Girlmom is politically progressive, left-aligned, pro-choice, and feminist. Girlmom intends to support young mothers, of all backgrounds, in their struggles for reproductive freedom and social support.
There exists no other space where young mothers who have also chosen abortion can speak freely and honestly about all their reproductive choices. As young mothers, we all know what it is like for our reproductive choices to be questioned and judged as "deviant", or wrong, by the rest of society. Women who have abortions receive this same judgment, but to a larger extent, and are called murderers, babykillers, whores, sluts, immoral, ... the list goes on. Because of this, most women who have abortions are shamed into silence, and don't openly speak of these choices that they have made. No woman should ever feel ashamed for choosing what is best for herself, her womb, her existing and her potential children, and her life.
We believe that all teenagers are sexual beings with the ability to love, procreate and nurture. We believe that teenagers have the innate ability to parent well, but are socially conditioned to believe that they are irresponsible and reckless. We believe that such social conditioning often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which teenage parents believe that they cannot parent well and move on to not parent well. We believe that in order to solve the "problems" associated with the "epidemic" of teen pregnancy, we must reassess and change our collective social attitudes towards teenage childbearing. We believe that in order for teen parents to succeed, they must be encouraged to do so and assured that they are capable. Degrading, vilifying, marginalizing, and rejecting teen mothers (as is customary in our society) is counterproductive and illogical. Teen mothers will succeed if allowed the opportunity. When a teenage girl finds herself pregnant, it is one of the few times during her life course where she will not only be expected to fail, but socially encouraged to fail. We believe that encouragement and support beget success.
We encourage all young mothers to speak loudly and boldly of their experiences and choices, in the hope that young women of future generations will feel more secure in doing the same. We support the right of others to choose to not bear children and expect similar support and respect for our choice to become parents. We encourage debate when it is employed in an effort to open our minds and broaden our horizons. We discourage debate when it silences or tramples over the voices of mothers trying to garner support and advice.
We reject all ageism, racism, sexism, classism, and other prejudices and stereotypes. We are actively working towards creating an equal society, in which the right to bear or to delay bearing children is secured for all and all children are allowed the right to excel and thrive. We support women receiving public assistance, and feel that no woman should have to justify exercising her legal right to do so. We support lesbian, queer, bi, trans, and poly mamas and feel that no one should ever have to justify or explain their sexual identity and practices.
We believe in the idea of youth liberation, and feel that teen parents should be freed from social restraints that restrict their ability to parent effectively and independently.
We encourage mothers to continue their educations and earn higher degrees. At the same time, we encourage mothers to make choices for themselves and reject the system that exploits them. We encourage mothers to seek independent employment when possible, to purchase independently produced items, and maintain a DIY philosophy, in order to reject the patriarchal system that oppresses us.
Many times we are told explicitly or tacitly, that young mothers are not pro-choice. "People always assume I'm anti-choice and it gets on my nerves. Just because I got pregnant at 15 doesn't mean I don't agree with abortion; it just means I made a very important choice and the right choice for me. That's what is just so great about being pro-choice," writes Elsye. Some feel that the traditional pro-choice movements have falsely assumed that because we continued an unplanned pregnancy out-of-wedlock, we must be against abortion. Deciding to continue a pregnancy does not mean that we would not, under different circumstances, choose to terminate a pregnancy. "I think its because I had a kid when I was young or something, they think I only continued the pregnancy because I was against abortion…. People have all these assumptions of what a feminist or a pro-choice person is supposed to be, and they usually do not picture a teen mom," reminds Skykid who became a mom at 17.
Society pushes a notion of what circumstances make an "ideal" pregnancy, or an "ideal" mother. When the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy decided to make their campaign pictures of young girls with the words "cheap, dirty, reject, nobody" in their print ads it took stereotyping to a new level. Just because you had a child when you were young, does not mean you're bound to live out the role that others assume you will. Many forget that some young women have planned our pregnancies, just like their older counterparts. These ideas about young mothers perpetuate dominant power structures. Society teaches us that you are not a "good mother" if you aren't older, married (to a man), rich, and white. Unfortunately the feminist movement has not always deconstructed the intersectionality of race and class issues. Biogrrlwonder, young transgender dad writes, "A lot of 'pro-choice' people (all of them with well-paying jobs and Ph.D.s) told me it was unethical for me to continue my pregnancy until I was financially on my own feet, like I had to have X amount of money and X amount of support or otherwise it was wrong to choose to parent. And it's not that simple."
Jenni, who became a mother at 19, describes the importance of social supports for young mothers, "When I was unsure of leaving my son's dad because of my apprehension about what my life would hold afterwards, Girlmoms supported my decision. When I wanted to go back to school, they were there to tell me it would all work out, and I could do this. I believed them and two years later I graduated from college." Hilary, a 21-year-old college student in Texas and mom to a 2-year-old son echoes this sentiment, "Motherhood can be very isolating, and it's hard to navigate and find a peer. When I was a teenage stay-at-home-mom/nanny in a new city with few contacts and no real idea of how to get myself around and dealing with post-partum depression, Girlmom gave me - I want to say "a way out" but that's not really what I mean - maybe a way in?"
17-year-old mom Lexi, writes, "Girlmom has helped me be proud of being a teen mom. I have learned/unlearned a lot of things, and it has really opened my eyes to what I am capable of doing in the future. I love hearing about other teen moms and what they have accomplished in their lives. It has really shown me that just because I have a child, that does not mean that I can't have a future. I hope that some day people will learn that teen moms are not worthless or trying to use the government or whatever else they say about us, that we are capable of contributing to the community. I think that it is a woman's choice to do what she wants with her body. I hope that in the future women will not be looked down at for aborting, adopting, or deciding to have a baby. Too many people look down at others for doing things, but they don't understand what other people are going through or what their stories are."
On Girlmom, many young moms decide to speak forcefully about our reproductive options. Many believe that our community of young women doesn't know enough about abortion and that some cling to false beliefs. Jenni states, "I have seen many young girls who have opted to continue a pregnancy they did not want because they didn't know all the options. So many girls stumble upon Girlmom not knowing about abortion and being dead set against it." Hillary continues, "Reproductive justice, for me, is a human rights issue as well as a personal issue. My agency over my own body is my basic human right, whether that means choosing when and whether to grow a fetus in my uterus, choosing when and whether to have sexual relations with another person, or choosing how I am physically treated, it all comes down to the same basic right: the right to physical autonomy."
Heather, is one of the current moderators at Girlmom. She is a 24-year-old single mama to an almost 6-year-old girl-child living "in the vast lands of North Dakota." She writes, "I have always been pro-choice, but there's always that weird stigma around abortion and it's a hush-hush subject. I don't think it's fair for girls, sexually active or not, to not know about such an important issue and option they CAN have at any age, any time, any situation and to NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. I have a daughter. I want her to have all reproductive options available for her. Reproductive rights go beyond abortion. Girl-mom has helped me learn and unlearn so much about women's issues, racism, radicalism, phobias, sexuality, trans issues, just to name a few. Girl-mom has helped me get past my abusive baby-daddy to finally leave him. Girlmom has helped me get past issues of concern to me and give me the confidence to be who I am, do what I do, and make the decisions I do."
Charlie, the current editor of Girlmom, became a mom at age 16, planning her pregnancy. She is currently a single mom in Austin and an undergrad who receives a full scholarship. Charlie explains that society tries to shame women's sexual choices and creates a false hierarchy between teen parents such as, single vs. coupled parenting, or planned vs. unplanned pregnancies. She says, "Us Girlmoms got pregnant in all different ways, we planned it, we slipped up, we had violence used against us. But the thing about Girlmom, is that we empower every young mama to pin that invisible merit badge to their chests and be able to say, "No matter the circumstances of the conception, I am a mother by choice."
Take a look at the history for years and years and you will see that reproductive rights and issues have always been around. It's amazing. It's not a new issue, at all. Yet we are still standing up and fighting. And fighting - we will NOT stop.