Regardless of what people have seen on television or in movies, the "pregnancy pact" theory -- if we can even call it that -- rocked the small-town world of Gloucester, Mass. It was one thing to have one or two girls coming to the nurse's office requesting pregnancy tests, but a whole new issue erupted and took the town by storm when a total of 18 girls ended up with positive test results. Rumors began spreading and before they knew it, suddenly Gloucester High School was going baby crazy. Test results sent out mixed reactions amongst the girls who took them; some were devastated to the point of tears, others rejoiced in what they thought was pregnancy luck. Needless to say, the high school staff was bewildered, confused, and morally at a loss for what to do. Pregnancy was becoming epidemic, and with laws to restrict them from passing out birth control methods, they were helpless.
Was there any truth to this pact, however? With denial, such a strong theme amongst the group of 18 pregnant teenagers, one who considers her pregnancy completely unintentional, and another who swears none of the girls were even friends, no one was really sure what to make of it. That's why now, ten years later, we're bringing up the questions that no one has ever bothered to answer. We may not ever know why these girls did what they did, or if there was such a thing as the "pregnancy pact", but we can assure you we're not afraid to ask anyway.
This is, by far, one of the most commonly asked questions about the "pregnancy pact". If it truly existed, that is. Nearly all of the girls denied the existence of there ever being a spoken agreement on how and when to get pregnant, but according to Sullivan's twisted story, the pact had started when the girls were only Sophomores. Most of us can barely find all of our misplaced textbooks at that age, let alone think about raising a child. This throws the reliability of Sullivan's story into serious question, especially with the known fact that both the nurse and medical director at the time were strong advocates for safe education.
It seemed like there was more going on behind the scenes here, as a town full of staunch Catholics refused to recognize the need for progression versus school staff who see a heightened need for it every single day.
It will never be clear how 18 girls simultaneously become pregnant the same year, at the same age, in the same school, but we can be almost certain that if a pact existed, solidifying their status and following a commitment was the goal.
Kyla Brown was one of those girls whose first call was to her mother. She told Marie Clare that shortly after taking a test at the nurse's office at school (and not initially believing the positive result), she told a friend who let her borrow a cell phone. She told her mother immediately by asking how she felt about "being a grandmother", and from that point on, the rest was history. But how did the other girls feel about their situations?
From Nurse Daly's perspective of finding out first-hand from each girl that they're pregnant, each girl's reactions were mixed. Some were upset and stunned to see positive results, others were disappointed in negative ones. Some girls, outrageously, were thrilled to see that they were pregnant.
There was even the mention of throwing a celebration for a positive test, and we can only imagine what these girl's parents thought of that. Would safe education from the parents as well as the school have stopped this? It was no secret that the town of Gloucester was in a state of depression and economic trouble, leaving many parents to work as much as they could. Was this a contributing factor? We may never know.
During every major uprooting in our timeline, there's always the question of how involved the media was in influencing the events that unfolded.
During the "pregnancy pact" scandal, several celebrities were also having kids, including Jame Lynn Spears. Some blame her front-cover shot on the front page of OK! magazine for encouraging high schoolers to get pregnant so that they, too, could have what appeared to be the perfect life of a mom.
Regardless of how fame factored into these girls' decisions, it would normally be common sense that bringing a baby into what's already a tumultuous life can just make things more difficult. That means there's no proof to either confirm or deny the media's involvement. However, major motion films such as Juno and Knocked Up were also held accountable for making motherhood appear to be something out of a dream. Juno, a story of a 16-year-old girl who got pregnant by her high school boyfriend, and Knocked Up, a story of a hookup taking a turn for the worst. Both of these movies had happy (well, as happy as can be, anyway) endings that could understandably confuse someone, but do we really think that these girls watched a movie and immediately wanted that life? Who knows.
Poor Kyla Brown was the target of many rumors and outright insults shortly after becoming pregnant. In a small town like Gloucester, it's easy enough to understand that everyone knows everyone, and every rumor is taken as truth. Brown has had slurs thrown out her while out in public with her mother, been called names on the street and had assumptions made about her while in school. Through all this, she still denies the existence of the pact and claims that her becoming pregnant was simply an accident. Her family has already had a history of teenage girls getting pregnant; her aunt was one of those girls. Now Brown will forever be known as the Gloucester 18, the group of girls who supposedly created a "pregnancy pact" to become mothers. Of the rumors that circulate the town, one of the worst, perhaps, is the rumor that was with multiple men in order to become pregnant. Out of this, we see a chance for empathy while most people hear about the pact and simply shrug it off as a small-town scandal involving wicked girls who bit off more than they could handle.
The craziest rumor, though, was started by the principal of Gloucester High School himself, Dr. Joseph Sullivan. He claims that one of the girls actually turned to a homeless man to father her baby out of desperation.
Now why in the world would an Irish-Catholic-raised man make an accusation like that?
According to a story written in 2008 by CBS, school superintendent Christopher Farmer gave a statement claiming there was, indeed, a pregnancy pact.
"They will have a baby as part of their life to give them status...Motherhood gives them status", he was quoted as saying.
The question is, why in the world would these teenagers, some not much older than 15, equate pregnancy with status? We get it, high school is a crazy world full of people striving to make it to the top of the cliche that is high school cliques. Pregnancy is wonderful news for parents who are stable, established, and financially capable of having a child. For a teenager under 16, it's a sentencing of not finishing school, not having a stable partner to help raise the child, and destruction of your social life...Something many of these girls found out after the fact. It's been speculated by members of the town as well as the school that pregnancy was a way out for these teenagers. As typical small towns go, many of these girls saw no other option than motherhood and decided that would be their career. We can't speak for all of them, of course, but from the outside, it would appear that these girls chose to have a child over living a life that many thought would be meaningless with no defined direction or long-term goals. Ronna Hammond Resnick, who worked for Action, Inc., summed it up best in her interview with Marie Claire:
"For kids who don't see a future, they think, Let's have babies together. That can be our immediate future."
The boyfriends, or simply just boys, involved in this pregnancy conspiracy were oddly silent throughout the whole ordeal. Of course, the media wasn't focused on them at the time, but it does beg to question how 18 girls happened to have 18 boyfriends who didn't think to use protection. Hypothetically, let's say that there was some sort of pact. Were these boys just as disillusioned as the teenage girls were? What could have been said to lure these boys in enough to agree to impregnate their girlfriends, if that's even what they were? To speak to the side of Kyla Brown, if there was no pact, then the coincidence that all 18 of these girls got pregnant in the same school year is nearly unfathomable.
It was speculated that some of the girls even turned to older men, in an attempt to solidify whatever status was at stake.
Brianne Mackey, one of the girls who was a part of the 18, ended up marrying her high school boyfriend. Much like Brown, she denies there every being a pact and remains sad towards the fact that people will never truly listen or believe her. Mackey and her husband separated after their second child.
As we've stated already, every girl involved in the pact has denied that one ever existed. Lindsay Oliver, one of the original 18, got pregnant at 17 and has claimed that they're all just "unlucky" in an interview with Marie Claire. She was one of the girls who became pregnant by her boyfriend, who was 20 and three years older than her at the time. Many of the girls shied away from the idea of being in the news when the media strolled through Massachusetts as well, which adds an interesting layer to this pregnancy-pact onion that we may never get to the bottom of. While Brienne Mackey did say that she has known girls can get pregnant for attention, even this doesn't necessarily make sense in conjunction with the fact that many girls wanted nothing to do with sitting in front of a camera or giving a quote.
The idea of being peer-pressured to become pregnant seemed to be a foreign concept to the pregnant 18, which leaves incredibly unlucky circumstances, or, as Nurse Daly and Brian Orr originally insinuated, a serious need for sponsored birth control methods.
Even with increased education, it's still hard to grasp the fact that one school saw 18 positive pregnancy tests in one school year.
To our knowledge, there have never been any hard and fast rules that were associated with the "pregnancy pact"...Mainly because in all likelihood, there never was one, to begin with. What was really a back and forth between school staff members in an argument for better safe education and prevention was twisted into something that turned into a small-town scandal that suddenly the entire country was interested in.
Based on former principal Sullivan's report of a "pact" that all the girls had created, the only rule he could even come up with was that the girls were to be pregnant by their Junior year of high school.
Intentionally getting pregnant because of an agreement is a sick ideology even for a high school student, and it's made even worse coming out of the mouth of a high school staff member. Officials had officially rejected the existence of a pact simply because Sullivan could not remember when he'd heard about it or any details of it, and with no proof from other staff members to back it up, it was discredited. All Sullivan could manage to say was the guidelines were to "raise their babies together" according to a New York Times article written in 2008.
If the pact really did exist, why was it so "hush hush" by the town and the girls themselves? When the media came in to try and spot an interview with them and gain some much-needed insight into how and why this all happened, many of the girls hid away and refused to talk. The ones that did agree to interviews, however, denied the existence of the "pregnancy pact" to the fullest extent, even going as far as to add their own personal story just to prove they had not done this as some sort of agreement or commitment to each other. Some girls, like Brienne Mackey, even claimed that none of the 18 girls who were pregnant even knew each other or were friends in the slightest. This changes the dynamic between what the media has turned the pact into and what is known in reality, and in reality, we know this: The "pregnancy pact" may never have actually existed.
However, were the girls who refused to comment just shy, or did they know something more? The only one freely chatting was the principal, and even his knowledge of the whole ordeal is sketchy.
Don't worry Dr. Sullivan, we've had days where our memories were "foggy" as well.
This is the question to beat, isn't it? How did former principal of Gloucester High School, Dr. Joseph Sullivan, know so much information about a pact between a group of 15-year-old girls? When officials and the media asked him, his response was always the same. His memory of that specific detail, the one thing that had the chance to either prove or deny the existence of a pact, had eluded him. He made claims that his memory was "foggy" on that particular detail. Meanwhile, he managed to come up with the story of one of the girls randomly going after a homeless man to be her suitor for a future baby, which in itself is outrageous, as well as the idea that these seven or eight original girls had banded together in the first place.
It would appear that his claims weren't just crazy to the girls who were pregnant, but also to town officials, who declared his story to be nothing but a sensationalized rumor that managed to make its way out of the school.
It seems like the former principal was so anxious to discredit the need for birth control options that he spun a web with the idea that it doesn't matter how many condoms are passed out...Girls will be girls and become pregnant anyway. Classy, right?
The speculation continues as Kyla Brown, one of the notorious pregnant 18, still has not been able to live down rumors that she was one of the original "pregnancy pact" girls.
She denies any relation to the pact and instead told Marie Claire that she was "devasted" and just thought that it simply couldn't happen to her.
She became pregnant at 16 and, luckily, has a solid system of support at home. Her parents went above and beyond to welcome Brown's baby into their home and provide her with what they need to successfully live at home and raise a child. Amidst claims that she wasn't part of this seemingly crazy pact, she has admitted that she always hated school and never thought of going to college afterward. Even though she considers herself a spoiled brat (and it seems her parents lovingly agree), she had plans to return to high school to finally graduate and be done with it after giving birth. Whether or not she ever did is unclear but it would appear, for the most part, that she was one of the few who ended up in a good situation for herself and her child with the help of her parents.
A pediatric psychiatrist who spoke with CBS back in 2008, Dr. Elisabeth Guthrie, was quoted as saying,
"It sort of gives you the impression of being an adult, an independent. It may give you an opportunity for unconditional love and attention from the baby and also that you give to the baby."
It has been suggested that much of the supposed pact was brought on by the small-town atmosphere. Having any kind of status in a town like Gloucester is, unsurprisingly, difficult. By having children, it was quite possible that these teenagers were killing two birds with one stone. By showing that they were capable of taking care of a child, it would appear that they were proving their adulthood, in a way. They were showcasing their responsibility (not that becoming pregnant as a Sophmore is responsible) and the fact that they could be apart of society. In addition to this, they were also cementing their future after high school. When so many of them did not have a future lined up for them, it was all they could do to resort to having a child. Again, we'll never have the answers...But that's certainly how it would seem.
It's anyone's guess as to why the Gloucester High School staff felt the need to resign from their positions. Interestingly enough, the people who quit were the ones who were involved first-hand in discovering the scandal. Former principal Joseph Sullivan plays by far the most intriguing part in the "pregnancy pact". He was the first one to bring the pact to the attention of the town and to the news, claiming that it existed and somehow knowing intimate details. Sullivan divulged the story of one of the 18 being desperate enough to turn to a 24-year-old homeless man to get her pregnant, and, oddly enough, simply couldn't seem to remember how he found out about the pact, to begin with. That alone brings up a multitude of questions, none that we will ever have answers for.
In addition to his resignation, both the school nurse, Nurse Daly, and Brian Orr, the school medical director, quit as well.
The two were in complete disagreement with Sullivan's claim that there was some sort of pact and believed this story was created in his own mind to discredit their pleas for school-sponsored contraception. Sullivan quit on the grounds that he was betrayed by the town, mayor, and school board. Who knows if handing out free condoms would have helped? We definitely don't, but oh what interesting web Gloucester High School hath weaved.
The girls' repeated trips to the nurse's office did spark concern in the hearts of several staff members at the high school.
Nurse Daly immediately questioned the rate at which girls were strolling in requesting pregnancy tests.
When tests were running nine bucks a pop, it made sense that there would be an increase in students grabbing free ones -- But was it intentional? Nurse Daly didn't seem to think so. To her and Brian Orr, the school's medical director, it just seemed that this was even further proof for the need of some sort of safe education and/or contraception in the school. Increased pregnancies meant that something wasn't being done right, and now more than ever a new overhauling of the school's policies was needed. Laws restricted the school staff from handing out any sort of contraception without parental consent, which sparked an outcry that was heard nation-wide. The state of Massachusetts had also cut funding that year for reproductive health outreach, meaning there was no money to change things even though the desire was there. This ultimately led to the nation questioning the state of safe education in schools...As well as the resignation of both Nurse Daly and Orr.
In one final argument against and for the pregnancy pact: According to the Massachusetts state law, it's illegal to be with a 15-year-old girl, i.e. a minor. This is common knowledge and meant that any of the boys or men who had gotten the original 18 girls pregnant could have faced statutory charges, simply on account of being with a minor.
These charges could have been pressed at the discretion of the girls' parents, but interestingly, nothing was filed. The fathers of the children also could have been held responsible for paying child support regardless of their age or financial state, but this was also not an option for the girls' families.
This would lead many to believe that it was accidental that these girls happened to get pregnant, and many of their families would know their boyfriends. In keeping with typical small-town ways, not only would their parents have known their boyfriends, but the entire town would have known as well. This meant further scandal was not an option and instead many of the girls silently chose to raise their children on their own with the help of their families and friends, with some being lucky enough to have the support of the child's father.