Gloucester Pregnancy Pact
Gloucester History
Gloucester is located in northeastern Massachusetts, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and with its main industry being fishing. The city is made up of a population of 30,000 people with the majority being mostly white and blue-collared individuals. The economy of Gloucester has always been based upon the fishing industry but according to Kingsbury (2008a), the town had hit upon hard times in 2008 with many people losing their jobs and having to raise their kids in broken families because of the hit. This leaves many of the teens in this town trying to fill the voids. Many teens were looking for some sort of status or wanted to play a larger role in society.
Stats & Pacts
Gloucester High School is located in the heart of Gloucester and is made up of about 1,200 students. During the 2008 school year, 17 of these students became pregnant around the same time. This had actually quadrupled the number of teen pregnancies from the previous year. Many of the parents believed that this was more than just a simple coincidence. School officials became suspicions when they saw an unusually large amount of girls began showing up at the school clinic and asking for pregnancy tests. Some of these girls would come back multiple, multiple times. School officials became even more suspicious when they saw that ‘“some girls seemed more upset when they weren’t pregnant than when they were’” (Kingsbury & McLeod, 2008c).
This led school officials to believe that a few of these girls had made some sort of “pregnancy pact” and had decided to get pregnant together.On June 11, the mayor and the school's superintendent, Christopher Farmer, said that some of the sophomores at Gloucester High appeared to be getting pregnant on purpose. Farmer said today he now believes that some of the girls who were already pregnant decided to band together to stay in school and raise their babies together” (Kingsbury, 2008b). None of the now termed “Gloucester 17” has ever publicaly come forward and verified the establishment of a actual pact, but the staggering statistics show an indication of some sort of agreement. To see such an increase in the amount of teens pregnant from one year to the next is a little out of the ordinary. Also, many of girls, after finding out that they had indeed become pregnant exchanged high-fives and plans for baby showers (Kingsbury, 2008b).
Gloucester & Young Mothers

“The high school has done perhaps too good of a job of embracing young mothers. Sex-ed classes end freshmen year at Gloucester, where teen parents are encouraged to take their children to a free on-site day-care center” (Kingsbury, 2008a). The town has always been known to embrace young mothers because they want to help allow them to graduate from high school. Being that the people in the community are so accepting of teen parents, it may lead teens to believe that getting pregnant at a young age is an okay thing to do. But these students may be uneducated about all of the negative aspects that can come from it as well.
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Kyla Brown, one of the "Gloucester 17" poses while she is 8 months pregnant. (Voss, 2008).

The Characteristics of the Gloucester 17
Although none of the pregnant girls have come forward to state the existence of such a pact, there are some similarities between each of the girls that lead many to believe in the existence of one. According to Williams (2008), “…claim that teenagers are forced into creating their own ‘world beneath’ because they are so often abandoned by adults certainly rings true in the instance of the Gloucester Girls. These young ladies felt so alone and so in need of creating a world of their own that they came up with the harebrained idea to get pregnant.”
Because of the lack of jobs available in Gloucester and the increasing rate of broken homes, many of the girls felt the desire to be able to establish themselves in society. All of the Gloucester 17 were under the age of 16 years old when they all found out they were pregnant, many of whom got pregnant by their older boyfriends. There were even reports that one of the fathers was a 24 year old homeless man (Kingsbury & McLeod, 2008c).
Glamorization of Sex & Pregnancy
According to Gibbs (2008), our current culture has gone about “glamorizing sex.” What with movies such as “Juno” and “Knocked Up” showing young, unwed women having children in a very positive light, its hard to see any negative aspects about being young and getting pregnant. It also comes into play when looking at celebrities. One specific example is looking at Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears. Jamie Lynn, who was also young and unwed when she became pregnant, was posted on the cover of one magazine saying how much she enjoys being a mother. Juno is a movie about a teenager who accidentally becomes pregnant and decides to give her baby up for adoption. By surrounding the teenagers of this country with these seemingly positive aspects about being pregnant, they get a false sense of eagerness about being pregnant. Celebrities obviously have a much easier means of raising a baby because they may have the funds to have hired help and essentially have their hired help take over the majority of the daily care of the baby. Having help like that is very unrealistic to the average American teenager.
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A scene from the movie Juno starring Ellen Page as a pregnant teenager. This movie has since lead to the term the “Juno Effect.” (Friedman, 2008)
Movies such as Juno or Knocked Up turn teen pregnancy or pregnancy of unwed women into a comedy and make it look appealing and fun. Since the release of this movie, the term the “Juno Effect” has been coined to describe the effect the media has on glamorizing teen or unwed pregnancies (Friedman, 2008). Especially with the way our culture has developed and how much of a part of our daily lives sex has become, teens are constantly being bombarded with images and idea of sex on a daily basis.

Solving the Problem
The town of Gloucester is a Catholic town and it has been very divided about trying to find a solution for the rising rates of teen pregnancy. The nation as a whole has seen a 3% increase in the rates of teen pregnancy between the years of 2006 and 2008, and Gloucester is no different (Kingsbury & McLeod, 2008c). The town though, was reluctant to increase the accessibility of birth control and other contraceptives. As with many different school districts and communities, many people in Gloucester are afraid that by making contraceptives much more available and accessible, that it would lead teens to try experimenting with sex at earlier and earlier ages. But I think most communities would agree that it is more important to help teach teenagers about preventing pregnancy and risk them start experimenting earlier, just so long as they are being safe about it.



References:

Friedman, R. (2008). The 'Juno' effect strikes again. Fox News.com.

Retrieved from: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,414824,00.html


Gibbs, N. (2008). Give the girls a break. Time. p. 36. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.


Kingsbury, K. (2008a). Pregnancy boom at Gloucester High. Time. Retrieved from: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1815845,00.html


Kingsbury, K. (2008b). Gloucester pregnancy plot thickens. Time. Retrieved from:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1817272,00.html


Kingsbury, K., & McLeod, K. (2008c). Postcard: Gloucester. Time, 171(26), 8. Retrieved from

EBSCOhost.


Teens' pregnancy pact shocks Mass. town. (2008). CBS News. Retrieved from:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/06/19/eveningnews/main4197525.shtml?tag=currentVideoInfo;videoMetaInfo


Voss, G. (2008). Inside the Gloucester pregnancy pact. Marie Clair. Retrieved from:

http://www.marieclaire.com/world-reports/news/latest/teenage-pregnancy-pactgloucester-3


Williams, A. (2008). Teens made pregnancy pact. The New York Amsterdam news, 99 (29),pp. 13.