“Hope is the best contraceptive.”
These words immediately flashed to my mind when I read about the pregnancy boom at Gloucester High School, in Gloucester, MA. I heard them some 20 years ago from Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children’s Defense Fund, when she talked about high rates of teen pregnancy among poor, African-American girls.
She was convinced, and quoted research to prove it, that there is a strong correlation between poverty and teen pregnancy. In order to reduce the high rates, adults from parents to educators to policy makers must provide hope to poor girls that they can expect more out of life than having a baby.
Edelman’s words were strongly echoed by a classmate of the 17 girls at Gloucester High—none older than 16—who reportedly made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. She said: “No one offered them a better option.” The local superintendent of schools backed her up when he said that jobs had disappeared in this mostly white, blue-collar city and that “families were broken.”
The adults in Gloucester should look to the Children’s Aid Society’s Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program, which started with very poor, New York City youth and has spread to 12 other sites across the country.
“This is the only program that had strong evidence of reducing pregnancy and childbearing and increasing the use of contraception for three years,” said Douglas Kirby, Ph.D., in his research on countless pregnancy prevention programs.
I urge Gloucester’s school board members to contact Carrera before more young girls decide to bear and raise children.