I’ve asked myself once, I’ve asked myself a million times why the hell I keep on getting Time magazine. In fact, I did cancel it a while ago, but only so it wouldn’t renew this October. I’m now headed off to cancel immediately and get my few extra dollars back.
The cover story was bad enough — and I plan on getting to that later in the week. But then there was this article on the “pregnancy pact” story that won’t go away, an opinion piece by Nancy Gibbs called “Give the Girls a Break.” Sounds good, right? No. Though I got home yesterday to find out that Feministing beat me to writing about the article, I’m still furious after reading it at lunch.
Gibbs thesis, with exceedingly little evidence, is that this “pregnancy pact” story has nothing to do with an acceptance of teen pregnancy and everything to do with a rejection of abortion. Now, I’d honestly argue that the two are really rather related — one is more likely to choose parenting over abortion when the choice to parent (one that you can’t hide) is more socially acceptable. And you know what? That’s good. The only thing that upsets me as much as women feeling like they have no choice but to give birth is women feeling like they have no choice but to have an abortion.
The first problem is there’s no evidence that while teen abortion rates are declining even more rapidly than teen pregnancy rates, it has anything to do with a “rejection” of abortion. It must be noted that it’s false to frame the choice to not have an abortion as a “rejection” of abortion, just like it’s false to frame having an abortion as a “rejection” of babies. And while I certainly do hope that the numbers tell us more teens are choosing to parent out of their own free will, I’m rather skeptical towards the idea that it has nothing to do with declining access to abortion services, especially for teens, what with the growing rate of parental notification and consent laws across the country.
Secondly, she fails to note that Time, the news source that first reported this scare story, got it wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. No pact. Weird principal apparently trying to bring attention to his school for all of the wrong reasons. The principal is the only one to say that there was a pact. Everyone else, including some of the pregnant teens have denied it.
Gee, who would have thought a story that sounds too sensational to be true might not actually be true?
And the third problem, the biggest problem, is the anti-choice rhetoric that Gibbs uses to make it sound like if her argument is correct, the decline in teen abortions and increase in teen births is something we should undoubtedly celebrate.
I wonder if the critics would be so quick to condemn if they viewed the story another way. There is certainly troubling anecdotal evidence that some of the girls set out to get pregnant together. But other girls talk about a different kind of resolution. What if the “problem” in evidence at Gloucester High has more to do with the rejection of abortion than the acceptance of teen pregnancy?
[. . .]
What if the visible leap in pregnancies is part of a different trend, which the national studies confirm: not necessarily more kids having sex or more girls getting pregnant but instead more of those who do deciding to have the baby rather than abort it? Consider Lindsey Oliver, a Gloucester student who says she found herself pregnant despite being on the Pill. She told Good Morning America that she made her own pact with friends to help them get through their unplanned pregnancies together. She and her boyfriend, a 20-year-old community-college student, talked about trying to do the right thing in a difficult situation.
Now, let me be clear: teens and women of any age making their own decisions about pregnancies without fear or pressure is something to be celebrated. That doesn’t mean, as I addressed above, that fewer teens deciding to “have the baby rather than abort it” (no judgment there) is automatically a good thing, or “the right thing.”
But worst of all in this celebration of the increased percentage of pregnant teens who give birth is her granting the “credit” to crisis pregnancy centers.
Whether a girl–or a woman–decides to end a pregnancy or see it through is as complex an emotional and moral and medical calculation as she ever faces. But I wonder if some soft message has taken hold when the data suggest that more women facing hard choices are deciding to carry the child to term. This has been the mission of the crisis-pregnancy-center movement, the more than 4,000 centers and hotlines and support groups around the country that aim to talk women out of having abortions and offer whatever support they can. If not in Hollywood, then certainly in Gloucester, teen parents and their babies face long odds against success in life. Surely they deserve more sympathy and support than shame and derision, if the trend that they reflect is not a typical teenager’s inclination to have sex but rather a willingness to take responsibility for the consequences.
That’s right, no need to mention the bullying, or the camouflaging of themselves as reproductive health centers. No need to mention that virtually all crisis pregnancy centers don’t provide any reproductive health services at all other than pregnancy tests. No need to mention how CPC workers talk about killing babies, distorting or outright lying about medical complications and risks, or how our tax dollars are helping to pay for it. Or maybe even the multiple reports that CPCs tend to try to delay women from having abortions for as long as possible, so that they’ll go into the second trimester and have more difficulty procuring an abortion and paying for one.
On the contrary, CPCs are apparently akin to “support groups.” But at least Gibbs is right about one thing — their goal is to “talk women out of having abortions.” Not to give them more options, to help them prepare for parenthood if they’ve already made that decision, or to provide medical services or support for anyone who has already made a choice of any sort. It’s to talk them out of having abortions.
Of course, if pro-choice groups set up centers to “talk women into having abortions,” the public would be outraged (and rightfully so — it wouldn’t be pro-choice). But when talking women out of having abortions? When deliberately setting out to manipulate a woman’s choice to not become a mother and to make her feel badly about it? Well that’s all fine and fucking dandy.
Lastly, I have to note that the final sentence of this article tells us a lot. “Surely they deserve more sympathy and support than shame and derision, if the trend that they reflect is not a typical teenager’s inclination to have sex but rather a willingness to take responsibility for the consequences.” In other words, pregnant teens and teen parents deserve sympathy and support if the reason they’re pregnant/parents can be solely attributed to a trend against abortion. They deserve it because they’re mostly-good girls who made a mistake with the whole dirty sex thing, but at least they didn’t kill their babies. They don’t deserve sympathy and support because they’re, oh, people. Or because no matter what happened, they don’t deserve an entire fucking nation wagging a finger at them. Or because sympathy and support is something that we should simply provide to those dealing with difficult and challenging times. No, if they’re just slutty whores who set out to get pregnant and — I don’t know what people think, deliberately become “welfare queens” or something — shame and deride away. Load up that slut-shaming wagon and give Nancy Gibbs the reins (though I’m sure she might have to fight Leslee Unruh for them).
Hey Gibbs and Time: you see this middle finger? Just a little gift from me to you. But in a totally supportive and sympathetic way.