Pregnancy Pacts: Better Than Suicide Ones, Still Not That Good

About a month ago, Dr. Brian Orr and Nurse Practictioner Kim Daly abruptly left their positions with the school clinic at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts. The reason? After watching the number of teen pregnancies rise from 4 to 10 by March, Orr and Daly proposed a program under which students could confidentially obtain contraception at the clinic and were widely castigated by the community. Well, now the number of GHS pregnancies is up to 17 and it turns out that Daly performed 150 confidential pregnancies tests at the school by the end of May and that the whole thing was a plan by the students to get pregnant together.


Gloucester's a town where the main jobs are either in the fishing or tourism industry, where the median household income is well below the state as a whole. Almost 12 percent of those under 18 live below the poverty line. It's also 20 miles from the nearest women's health clinic, so students without cars either have to bum rides, get there on public transportation or walk, which is why Daly and Orr suggested providing such services at the school.

Four pregnancies a year in a school of 1,200 students means that everyone knows who the moms are, and the school makes an effort to make sure that those students stay in school and finish their educations. Time magazine characterizes this as "The high school has done perhaps too good a job of embracing young mothers," which is such bullshit I don't even know where to start except to say: yes, God forbid students be exposed to the consequences of other people's life choices with which they may or may not disagree while at school, and God forbid students who have plenty of other consequences with which to deal be offered the opportunity to finish their high school educations at a school that doesn't judge them for their choices.

Anyway, moving on, the story also points out that sex ed stops freshman year and that the girls involved in the pact thought it was soooo cool that a senior with a baby had someone to love her unconditionally, to which she responded, "it's hard to feel loved when an infant is screaming to be fed at 3 a.m.," not that the other girls apparently cared. The head of the school, Christopher Farmer, says "Many of our young people are growing up directionless," because of divorce and a bad economy.

Before the school year starts anew, the school committee is going to vote whether to provide contraception at the school. Would it have helped in this case? Maybe. But it seems like the school system should be debating more than just whether to hand out condoms or provide birth control. Comprehensive sex education, including information on birth control, disease, pregnancy, legal consequences for both parties, age of consent and what parenting entails, should probably be on the agenda as well (let alone appropriate parental involvement with their kids), but that's probably more difficult to get for these students — male and female — than rubbers and pharmaceuticals, so I guess they'll take what they can get.

GHS Clinic Chiefs Quit Over Contraception Fight [Gloucester Daily Times]

Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High [Time]


Jenna Sauers

@warmaiden: Well, at my school in New Zealand, we started sex ed in the first year of middle school and it didn't end until Year 11. The first classes were basically talk about periods and puberty and how babies are made, in case any of the kids had parents who'd neglected to share that information previously. By the end, we were talking a lot about STDs as well as every form of contraception known to man, role-playing ways to say 'No' to sex under pressure and talking about legal recourse in cases of rape. There was even a fair bit of conversation about the emotional dimensions of sex.

Of course, my high school also offered free condoms, weekly visits by appointment from a nurse-practitioner with the local women's health centre, and private referrals for abortions. There's a lot more than just how to not get pregnant that can and probably ought to go into sex education — but all that would probably be very controversial in certain communities. Contraceptives, and how and why it's immportant to use them, are certainly better than nothing.