No “pregnancy pact”
Controversy erupted amidst rumors of a “pregnancy pact.” This documentary tells the girls’ less sensational, but still troubling story.
This documentary explores the hot-button issue of teen pregnancy with objectivity, insight and genuine concern. It avoids political and religious debate.
Deciding to give birth
This film debunks the myth of a “pregnancy pact” which was widely reported by national and international news programs. That rumor was also exploited in a made-for-television film that upset many Gloucester residents.
Most of these girls did not know each other when they became pregnant. Some became friends afterwards and shared mutual support, according to nurse practitioner Kim Daley.
Concern for moms, babies
New moms and dads, grandparents, counselors and health providers speak in a series of interviews. By skillfully excerpting interviews around an issues-based narrative, Williams creates a sense of urgency.
Wisely, the director also visits the cities of Lowell and Springfield. Teen pregnancy rates were higher there in 2009. Teen pregnancy is not just Gloucester’s issue, but a continuing national dilemma.
Teen moms speak
Teen moms interviewed are upbeat at first. Some are quiet. One girl is coached by her mom on how to answer the interviewer. Eventually, they share mixed feelings and regrets.
Seventeen-year-old Leslie from Lowell got pregnant at age 15. She never went to high school. “It’s hard,” she says, smiling through her tears. “It’s not fun changing diapers, waking up.” Her son’s father abandoned them. Leslie braids hair to pay for diapers.
“Everyone’s doing it”
“It’s the new thing” says Leslie of her friends in Lowell. “Everyone’s havin’ kids.” Young moms are isolated from the teen community as they are required to stay at home to care for their babies, says Dr. Brian Orr.
High school counselors and health providers speak. Pregnant teens often tell them, “I needed somebody to love me unconditionally, and someone who I could love unconditionally.”
Several counselors say they were required to follow an “abstinence only” model. They were not allowed to prescribe contraceptives to high school students. Some teens used birth control from their own physicians, and became pregnant anyway.
Lives with purpose
The Gloucester teens beam before the camera. It is their moment. They hold their babies. It’s rough but they get by, they say.
Motherhood gives their lives meaning and purpose. It’s their business, a friend of one mom says. They’re just starting their families sooner than most.
Sarah smiles radiantly, holding her second baby. She lives in a cooperative household with her children’s father and his brother’s family. Another girl works part-time at Dunkin’ Donuts. A teen father works in a bait yard to support his new son.
Second generation teen moms
Two of the girls are second generation teen mothers. Another faces her family’s legacy of domestic violence. Some new moms finish high school. Others drop out.
Williams intersperses frames of smiling girls with sobering statistics. As of 2009, 750,000 teenage girls become pregnant in the United States every year.
Teenage pregnancy costs the U.S. more than $9.1 billion a year. The U.S. has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy of any developed country.
Health, economic problems
The fate of several teens and their babies is revealed. Some girls live with their parents after giving birth, grateful for the back-up child care. One teen seeks public assistance. Several babies suffer health problems.
Tiny babies nestle in their mothers’ arms as the camera rolls. Concern for their well-being and future drives this powerful human interest film. (4 out of 5 stars)
The Gloucester 18 2009 / NR / 1 hour, 7 min
Cast Overview: Dr. Brian Orr, Kim Daley, Ray Lamont, Gail McCarthy
Director: John Michael Williams