The Houston Chronicle first reported on this story, about an eighth grader who didn’t know she was pregnant until she miscarried in an airplane, an event so frightening and horrible to consider, a sympathetic reader can understand the frightened child’s silence.
Yet in the same week, an even more chilling story made headlines: another fourteen-year-old girl gave birth, this time full-term, and allegedly tried to flush it down the toilet.
These events, so tragic and following so quickly, led to a rash of op-eds and discussion. The Houston Chronicle used the stories as a chance to call for comprehensive sex ed, and to bemoan a school district where students can escape never having learned about contraceptives.
These op-eds, however, were not always met with warm response, and one gets the feeling that people were sloughing off society’s responsibility for these events. To the conculsion that “we need to see the next one coming,” someone posted in response: “What’s this ‘WE’ stuff? …. This is not society’s fault. It is the fault of the girl… the male who impregnated her, and the parents who were not supervising her. That’s all there is to it.”
Yet how can we say it is not society’s fault, when society ignores those maligned and mistreated? If we remove societal blame from the picture, we are saying that the happenstance of birth, the accident of parentage, will be the deciding factor in the girl’s life. If we remove societal responsibility, we continue to abandon these children, just like we abandoned these teenage girls.
Furthermore, we (yes, back to “this ‘WE’ stuff”), cannot pretend that sexual activity begins in high school. Students are getting pregnant and getting STD’s earlier and earlier, and we have two responses: plug our ears, insist that it is the fault of the parent/child/rap lyrics/degrading morality of our times, or we can admit that washing our hands of our nation’s children and their well-being is perhaps the greatest immorality of all.
Marshall, Duvall Project