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Pregnancy Boom in a Massachusetts Fishing Town Reveals Lack of Resources and Policy Support Provided to Teens

 Time magazine first reported on a teen ‘pregnancy boom’ taking place in Gloucester, Massachusetts on June 18th. The article states that 17 students at Gloucester High School are pregnant and expecting to give birth, which is four times the number of pregnancies that the school has had in previous years.[i]
School officials first began investigating the issue in October after a large number of students went to the school’s clinic for pregnancy tests. Time reports that by May several students had returned multiple times to get tested for pregnancy and that the clinic’s head nurse practitioner had given around 150 tests. Both the medical director and nurse practitioner of the school clinic proposed providing contraceptives without requiring parental consent. There are currently 15 public high schools in Massachusetts that practice this policy. However, community leaders criticized the idea. “[They] have no right to decide this for our children,” stated Gloucester Mayor, Carolyn Kirk.[ii] The two health officials later resigned in protest.
The school offers sex education in middle school and a basic health class in the first year of high school. This freshmen year health class includes some discussion of contraception but no further sex education is required or taught due to funding cuts. These cuts went into effect in the 2000-01 school year.[iii] 
There is speculation that 8 of the teenagers made a pact to get pregnant. Gloucester High principal, Joseph Sullivan, stated in the Time article that he found out about the pact after investigating the situation. However, local officials have discredited Sullivan. Mayor Kirk stated that when asked about the pact Sullivan “was foggy in his memory of where he heard the information.” [iv]
While the validity of the pact is unknown, School Superintendent Christopher Farmer stated that “there were a group of girls who were being pregnancy tested regularly, leading one to conclude they were not trying hard not to get pregnant. In a follow-up article Time journalist, Kathleen Kingsbury commented that “what does seem clear…is that some of the girls in question did at least discuss the idea of getting pregnant at the same time, and that too little was done to educate the girls on the potential ramifications of that choice.”[v]
It is clear that not enough is being done to deal with the real life circumstances that these teens are facing," said William Smith, vice president of public policy at SIECUS. "Although access to contraceptives and comprehensive sex education are not wholly sufficient in and of themselves, they are a necessary change in policy that can only provide better outcomes in helping young people make responsible decisions.

[i] Kathleen Kingsbury, “Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High,” Time, online edition, 18 June 2008. 
[ii] Kathleen Kingsbury, “Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High,” Time, online edition, 18 June 2008. 
[iii] Kristen Grieco, “Spike in Gloucester High pregnancies alarms officials,” Gloucester Daily Times,
[iv] Jessica Fargen and Boston Herald staff, “Officials: Principal Has ‘Foggy’ Memory of Pregnancy Pact Story,” Boston Herald, 23 June 2008.
[v] Kathleen Kingsbury, “Gloucester Pregnancy Plot Thickens,” Time, online edition, 23 June 2008.

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