Last week I asked my favorite blogger, Haute Femme Trash, what she thought about the Gloucester teen pregnancies. And she responded in the post “I’m glad you
ended the blog with “What do you think, Lani?” So here it is:
I’m appalled. I’m
shocked. I’m pissed off. And I’m disgusted. It’s 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
“top” school officials and teen pregnancy experts – are not those of the young
women whose choices and decisions are being scrutinized. And I’m 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. I’m 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 wouldn’t 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 clinic’s 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.
I’m scared though. I’m 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). I’m 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. I’m 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, I’m going to stop talking. I’m going to stop talking until the young
women who are being talked about get a chance to be heard.
Photograph by Steve Rhodes.