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September 19, 2008

Inside the Gloucester Pregnancy Pact

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gloucester teenage pregnancy pact

Kyla Brown, 17, eight months pregnant, photographed at her home in July.

Photo Credit: Danielle Levitt

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Who besides Kyla makes up the Gloucester 18? There is Lindsey Oliver, 17, who became pregnant as a junior by her 20-year-old shaggy-haired boyfriend, Andrew. Due next month, Lindsey has said the girls in Gloucester didn't make a pact; they're just unlucky. Then there's Brianne Mackey, also 17, who just finished her sophomore year and gave birth in June. Brianne has heard the pact rumors, but while she has said that girls get pregnant for different reasons—including for the attention—she has never heard of anyone doing it because of peer pressure. As for the others, most went into hiding when the media came to town.

"I have a feeling that there was some sort of friendship-based, let's-get-pregnant-together scenario," says Ronna Hammond Resnick, of Action, Inc., the city's antipoverty agency. "For kids who don't see a future, they think, Let's have babies together. That can be our immediate future."

For his part, Joseph Sullivan is sticking to the pact story, even though the mayor, Carolyn Kirk, held a press conference denouncing it. Brian Orr, the school medical director, calls the very idea "hogwash" and has since quit under protest, as has Nurse Daly, who administered the tests. Both had been agitating for school-sponsored birth control for years, and in their minds, the pact theory was a lame effort on Sullivan's part to downplay the need for and efficacy of condoms—i.e., if the girls were trying to get pregnant, condoms would be useless. They're just bad apples, Sullivan seemed to suggest. Not much you can do to help them. Feeling betrayed by the mayor and the school board, Sullivan eventually quit his job as principal in August.

"SLUT!"

Loitering kids spit the word at Kyla Brown while she and her mother drive along Gloucester's winding main street. Whatever, Kyla thinks.

Some of the kids at school are sweet about her pregnancy. Others ask her why she's keeping it. One bitchy clique accuses her of faking, for attention. You're just getting fat, they say. Kyla laughs it off, she says.

But Kyla's mom can't laugh. It was just two decades ago when her own sister got pregnant as a GHS student, and Wendy is intimately familiar with the whispering and the stares and the hostility. She knows that the same fate now belongs to her daughter—a worse version, even, since she is a member of the infamous Gloucester 18.

Kyla knows she's not part of any pact. Knows there's no reason to be embarrassed about her baby boy, even if she is only 17. But she's sick of getting yelled at. Just the other day, Amanda yelled at her to stay in school. It was annoying. But it beat being called a slut.

Gretchen Voss is a Marie Claire contributing editor. She recently wrote about a suspected case of mad-cow disease.


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