A bitch is in the midst of emotional turmoil, so y’all will have to allow me some latitude today.
Have you ever listened to Marvin Gaye singing The Lord’s Prayer? The passion, the emotion…it stills a body in motion, literally makes you pause and listen…really listen.
Don’t ask me why, but a bitch has been playing Marvin’s version over and over in my mind…since 4 o’clock in the afternoon yesterday…when my sister C-Money called…a bitch has been playing it over and over...since finding out that my sister’s 14 year old mentee is pregnant.
So, there you have it and there it is.
Over and over, yet paused in motion…tears heavy and ready to fall.
Where to start?
What to say?
A bitch would like to start with a question.
When folks gather in groups, in legislative sessions and committees, to discuss whether to include comprehensive sex education in public schools do they ever ask themselves what is at stake?
What is held in the balance...what are the outcomes, negative and positive, of their decisions?
When discussing sex education policy what is the definition of failure? Actually, we have one don’t we…the standard of no child left behind, right? And No Child Left Behind, which is the national education policy, is all about establishing standards by which schools, teachers and students may be judged.
So, is anyone taking numbers…collecting data…checking to see if the current abstinence only agenda is working? It’s really easy! A bitch thought about it last night…while lying in bed trying not to curl up into the depressed ball of dejected shit that every fiber of my being wanted to be.
Who Art in Heaven…
Just take a look at the sexually transmitted disease infection rates…the pregnancy rates…the cold hard figures!
Is it working?
Hallowed be thy name…
A child has been left behind.
Thy Kingdom Come…
She is 14 years old…she loves Sponge Bob and hates History class. She’s shy, poor and pregnant.
Thy will be done…
And that is not to say that she is not responsible…it is complex…but we have failed her just as much as she has failed herself. There will be no joyous baby announcement…no happy phone calls…no registration at Babies-R-Us…none of that.
A 14 year old is pregnant and that is not cause for celebration in my world.
On earth as it is in Heaven…
Didn’t we tell her to talk to us? Yes, yes…but, but...but. Didn’t we discuss condoms and protection? Yes, yes…but she is 14 years old and knows all about that…sort of…kind of knows…didn’t know enough and we didn’t have enough time to teach her everything she wasn’t taught before.
And there is the guilt...the what ifs and the should haves that a bitch witnessed my sister go through last night...that are unavoidable and painful and empty.
Give us this day our daily bread...
There are limits to mentoring…limits of time and contact…legal limits that make it hard to get real. That is why there need to be supplements…sex education in the schools, on television, in church, on the radio...in the home, for the love of all that is holy.
Because you can make a mistake at 14 years old that could threaten your life...which is why she will need to have an HIV/AIDS test. You can make a mistake at 14 years old that can scar you…which is why she will need to have the full range of STD tests.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…
And what of the burden to society…the conflict between fiscal conservative policy...the ritualistic slashing of social programs...and the cost of shoring up a flawed sex education policy that all but guarantees multiple generations of dependents?
And lead us not into temptation…
Do we hold the mother of this mentee accountable? The woman who gave birth to this mentee at 14 years old herself…who will be a grandmother at 29? When and where was she supposed to learn the ropes and gather the information to instruct her child? Why the hell isn't anyone asking these questions?
But deliver us from evil…
What of the father? The 17 year old high school drop out…the ‘boyfriend’ who was never mentioned until the pregnancy announcement...who will now slowly or swiftly disappear. Do we hold him responsible…does it even matter?
Does responsibility have weight when the one responsible has nothing?
For Thine is the kingdom…
Yes! Yes, yes, yes…the word just wants to leap out of my throat...YES!
Y'all are so right.
It is a child, not a choice…and she is 14 years old and choice-less.
She is 14 years old…just a baby, but soon to be a mother…soon to do at 14 years old what this bitch doesn’t feel mature enough to do at 33.
And the power…
Please give my sister the strength to go on...to be as amazing in her mentee's life as she has been in my life.
And the Glory…
Give us the words to make people understand that behind this flawed policy are ever increasing numbers of women and children being born into abject poverty, violence, exploitation and misery.
Fill us with the wisdom to inspire others to get active and participate...to be a part of the solution...to give a damn...to work towards establishing a community instead of assuming someone else already has or probably will.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
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I share your feeling of loss, anger, saddness, frustration.
A friend's Little Sister, a girl she had mentored for five years, announced last month that she too is pregnant, at age 16. The boy, a drop out headed for the penal system, is also a teen.
Those of us who have known her through this connection, a bunch of women working at a feminist newspaper, all felt a personal sense of loss and failure.
Did they know about contraception. Yes. Did they try to use it. Yes.
But there are so many contrary messages in our society these days. So many religious beliefs masquerading as "truths." So little real, practicle advice.
Access to contraception for teens is also limited. Those who need it the most have the least access, especially to the forms that might work for them.
Hey ABB. Sorry to hear that news. I know how much work you put into trying to make sure shit like that doesn't happen.
Keep on keeping on. What you do does, in fact, make a difference. You just have to look at the bigger picture sometimes, ugh. How cliche.
Again, sorry to hear the news.
In peaceful struggle,
J.T. - shoot me an e-mail and let me know what newspaper. And thank you for the empathy, my sister.
Aarlene - ditto.
Hammer - yeah, this just hurts to the bone. But a bitch has given myself 24 hours to wallow and then the struggle goes on!
This is one of the best posts I have read to date and has brought me back in focus in such an excrutiating way, reminding me to reach out in love to ALL the young people who are experimenting with the feelings that happen in their young lives. This post shows that one person can make a difference. Somehow. Just by saying these things out loud.
Well said as always ABB.
Our society is so willing to throw so many away.
shit. shit. shit.
Another lost childhood. Another child having to become the grown up before her time to take of her child. Much more than another statistic.
How dare we as a society not take the blame for this?
My heart is with you and C-Money, ABB. She is going to need you guys more than ever now.
"She loves SpongeBob"
this is the line that made me weep. How would a child that still loves SpongeBob know what to do now? If she's going to go through with the pregnancy, then I hope someone makes sure she is well nourished throughout so that the baby is not born with low birth weight-low IQ-low everything that is a serious risk for early teen pregnancy. I hope someone is going to make sure that she can and does finish high school. I hope, I hope....knowing very well that the society won't help her with what she needs. I pray for her and am thankful that she has support and compassion in your family.
faraway66 via LiveJournal
No, No, No ... Yes, Yes, YES!: Abstinence Backfires
Sometimes I wonder if abstinence-only sex education is supposed to keep women ignorant about their own bodies so that they can't make choices about reproduction, so that they do get knocked up before they've finished high school, so that they either have to depend on the husbands that their family makes them marry or go on welfare, so that they stay trapped in their rural town or inner-city neighborhood, so that they make another generation that's as ignorant, isolated, and financially and politically powerless.
As I sat reading this, but before it was revealed who it was about, I kept thinking, "Oh shit, don't let this be the mentee."
She's just a child herself!!
There just are not enough words to describe this.
Who can really pinpoint who dropped the ball? The mom? The school? The society as a whole? The over-sexualized media? I fear this will remain a mystery.
I'm sorry to hear about this situation. It makes me think of a speaker I recently heard. She was talking about how children learn the song "head shoulders knees toes", and how we don't learn about the rest of the body. Sex ed in junior high is too late, and abstinence programs don't work. Other countries have figured this out (see Sweden) and have lower teen pregancy and STD rates. What will it take for the government to realise this? What do we do now to change this, ABB? What can I do now?
Thank you for your post is was utterly amazing & painful and needed. Unfortunately 14 year olds are not getting pregnant and STD's due to lack of knowledge-I think it goes much deeper then that-we have failed to tell/show them their worth-when one is feeling unloved. unworthy the company of someone is better then being alone-not to mention the mythical belief that one can create a life-which in turn will love them-My heart breaks for this 14 year-old girl who no and forever will be callously marked as fast.
P.S. I am going to send you a manifesto I wrote and often use in my work with young gay/lesbian youth-however it is applicable to straight folks as well.
ABB, I am newly addicted to your blog, but already a blazing fan. This is the first time I've made a comment, and I'm worried it will be an unwelcome one, but in good conscience, I have to ask. MUST this child bear this child? There are options. I know your ass is generally very lefty, but I know several fellow lefties that can not stomach abortion, and perhaps you are one. Your thoughts?
DAMN! Was that NARAL counter ALWAYS there on your blog? I must have been too absorbed in the writing to notice it before. So that answers that question as far as your position on the topic in general, but what about the mentee in specific?
that's tough, bitch. but c-money's mentee is lucky to have you and c-money in her corner at this crucial point in her life. whatever ya'll do will be hard, but, in the end, it'll be right.
there's lots wrong here, but at least this girl has a strong line of support.
It's almost condescending to say one is sorry... it's more than that. Tragic, perhaps, to know that no matter what, there is something lurking. It's easy to legislate morality, but it usually ends up being a case of throwing a rock at a glass house, followed by "who threw that rock?" issued by the thrower. Asshats. Keep ya head up, sis.
My best wishes to your sister and this child. Your sister can still make a difference to how this child handles all of this and no doubt will do her darndest to
She must bear this child in the state of Missouri. Her mother doesn't believe in abortion. And you must have parental consent to have an abortion under the age of 18 in the state of Missouri. If this outrages you, get involved.
Fat Dancing Bitch...
Fantabulous name, btw.
Yes, that NARAL counter has been there for a while and a bitch is pro-choice.
In this specific situation my state of residence is the primary issue. St. Louis is a border city...in a parental notification state. Across the river things are different, but in Missouri any woman under the age of 18 must receive parental consent.
And the woman in question is 14...her mother is anti-choice...and our hands are tied.
To anyone wondering what to do...visit www.ppslr.org and go to the political activism section, register and join the battle against restrictions that call a woman a child for 9 months of pregnancy and then an adult once the child is born.
To anyone who ever questioned the pro-choice fight, our efforts to battle abstinence only education, the need for comprehensive sex education and access to affordable reproductive options and the full protection of choice...drop me a line and this bitch will bring you up to speed real quick.
Frustrated doesn't begin to describe this...
Makes me want to holler, too....
Man... that's beyond rough, beyond saddening, and beyond infuriating. There's not much more for me to say, since you've said what needs to be said so well. I'm just glad that, at the very least, this girl has people like your sister (and you) in her life to support her through what must be an incredibly difficult time. It might seem like cold comfort but it probably means so much to her.
I wish I had something insightful to write. All I can offer, though, is my support and best thoughts. My greatest hope is that the young woman will not feel trapped and desperate. Instead, I hope she will prosper before and after the birth.
oh. my. god.
it just gets worse. so the 14-year-old's mother... nay, the soon-to-be 29-year-old grandmother is anti-choice??? and so the girl whose body, mind and soul are first and foremost affected by this has no choice in the matter except... except... 'she shoulda kept her legs closed in the first place'???
oh. my. god.
that makes my heart drop into my stomach, and they both ache. in theory, parental notification laws are based on good intentions, but good intentions also pave the road to hell. be strong, bitch. if i were a praying man, you'd have my prayers, but you'll have to settle with my thoughts and hopes.
yep, beyond frustrating
Given that (1)I'm probably bringing up plans of action you've already considered and discarded and (2) my unfamiliarity with the laws of Missouri -- is it possible to go to court and ask the judge to emancipate this child in order to get around the parental-consent issue? Is it possible the mother's parental rights could be terminated and a guardian appointed who could/would then give consent? Besides the practical aspect, my heart weeps for all involved in this tragedy.
ABB, you inspire me in so many ways. And reading this post, about your anger and frustration in your efforts to just DO SOMETHING GOOD have truly inspired me. None of us are perfect and who can expect us to be? But there you are, out in the literal trenches, doing what work you can and effecting what change you can. You and your sister, C-Money. You have both inspired me. I have waffled long on what I have to offer as a big brother/mentor but I am going to do it. In fact, I'm going to look for programs to volunteer for right now. Thank you for your inspiration. And keep on fighting the good fight.
ABB - what a poignant and powerful reminder of the devastating impact our misguided social policies have on those who are hurt the most - our children.
I was a high school teacher in an urban school in Texas, and it broke my heart every time one of my best and brightest girls - once a nationally ranked athlete, another time the class valedictorian -both with full college scholarships, had their dreams derailed by an irresponsible choice.
I know the disappointment your sister must feel, and my heart goes out to both of you. I know the frustration that comes with dealing with parents who don't see more for their children in the way that you do. I can only hope that enough of us will keep pushing, keep giving our money, keep volunteering, until 14 year old girls looking for love and acceptance in the arms of their 17 year old boyfriends will at least have the means to easily protect themselves from more far-reaching consequences.
Speaking of ppslr (an org. near and dear to my heart), there is a campaign underway to bring sex ed. programs to St. Louis City Public schools taught by Planned Parenthood itself. Anyone who would like to attend school meetings, who is a teacher or parent is welcome to get involved.
I attended an advocacy training session at Planned Parenthood's offices last weekend. There were about 8 new volunteers at the training session. This is such an important issue, I find it hard to understand why there aren't hundreds of women banging down the doors to get their voices heard and to influence our legislaters.
Wake Up, Missouri!
What is your niece's choice? (Not your, not her mother's, not the law)
And why are you calling her "mentee"? What does that mean?
The good news is that teen pregnancy is declining. The bad news is that statistics say absolutely nothing about the ache and loss of each number on the page. I've taught in urban public schools for years, and it still breaks my heart every single time one of my students gets pg. Fourteen yr olds are still children, and every time the shit I see on MySpace wipes that thought clean, I am reminded of one of my sophomore students who spent 1/2 her time shakin' her groove thang and the other 1/2 wishing fervently for a Tickle Me Elmo for Christmas.
Peace to you, your sis and her mentee.
This post is going to haunt me for some time for so many reasons . . . I grew up in the St. Louis area and happened to go across the river to Illinois to get an abortion when I was 17, so my first thought was, "I'd drive there to take her across the river if she wanted" though I'm sure you know more about that than I do. I mean, even in a world where she could get an abortion, she'd probably be caste out by her family, right? That is choiceless; I didn't know Missouri required parental consent for abortions.
I just don't know what to say. Maybe it's time for me to do more than just sign Planned Parenthood petitions . . .
Yeah. That shit Eric said? Put me down for that too. I've been a Planned Parenthood member since forever, ditto Amnesty International, I get a box full of lefty pleas for money every day in the mail, and sometimes this bitch just wants to throw up her hands and say "GodDAMN it! How many years and dollars do I have to spend to convince people of plain good SENSE?" But Eric is right. I'm gonna go sign up to make a difference to ONE kid, even if she DOES get pregnant, hell, ESPECIALLY if she get's pregnant. Stay angry, ABB. You give a fresh shot in the arm to all us tired bitches.
To all...thanks, a bitch needed all of that in a big way.
To Danielle and to clarify...this young woman is not blood family. My sister and this bitch are mentors, which is why the woman in question is called a mentee by me.
And to the question of what is his 14 year old's choice...she has none. She is allowed an opinion that is not enforced by state law, but she can not act on that opinion due to parental consent laws, so it really isn't a choice.
It's more like a wish, isn't it...when you have no legal options.
That is what pro-choice boils down to - the right to make medical decisions and choices for yourself legally.
This is a truly amazing post. I've linked to it from my blog, and I am wishing you all strength. I know there are closer places where abortion is legal, but if she wanted to come to Montana to exercise her choice, you would all have a place to stay. I hate that Missouri makes a difficult situation even moreso.
Thank you, bitch for clarifying, and I apologize- I was thinking it was a derogatory name like "mental". To say that she has no choice really breaks my heart. I find it very sad that people go around touting "women's right to choose" and yet that choice doesn't even apply to minors. This is my opinion, and I realize that most may not agree with me, but it is what it is. We are the only society in the history of the world that sees people under 18 still as children. Study world history, and you'll find that many ancient societies and tribes held rituals for children once they went through puberty, marking their entrance into adulthood. We're the only ones with the concept of "teenagers". In the past, "teenagers" had the same rights and responsibilities adults had. They could work, have a home of their own, participate in political action, marry and have children, and even be religious and political leaders. Teenagers in our society are not ready for these rights and responsibilities, imo, because we don't allow them to be. Your niece may not be a woman with the "right to choose" in the eyes of the law, but I believe she is a woman in the eyes of (whatever name you attach to the divine). I hope that whatever her choice is, (in your words, you call it her "opinion") will be able to happen for her, and in the future younger women will have the same rights to their bodies that you and I have. Good luck...
HEY! Prayers are all well and good, folks, but let's get to the point, here, after we're done gnashing our teeth. All of us want to do "something" - who says the Mentee can't be registered at BabysRUs? Can't have a shower thrown by family? Do you know how much kids cost these days? We are all children of God, people... let's lift up one of our own. Ms. Bitch, if you and Sister C-Money would be so good as to set up the Mentee at Target, or Wal-Mart, or where-ever-the-hell expecting mothers do these things and post it to the Blog, I would count it a privilege to send something. I think registrations can be set with everything sent automatically to a predetermined address... who's in with me for a stroller?
You restore a bitch's faith...
...and this bitch will keep you posted.
In the mean time...strollers, diapers and all manner of items are always needed at local shelters for teen mothers too.
I am (un)lucky enough to travel for my job, and my local women's shelter always is happy to get those tiny toiletry kits, shampoos, and other "smell wells" hotels hand out and no one knows exactly what to do with once they're home... it's easy to forget that cleanliness may be next to godliness but it is also a luxury. I found out if you ask nicely, the cleaning staff will give you handfuls of the stuff!
Oh my ... ABB, my heart is going out to you, to your sister, and to your sister's mentee. Have you looked into adoption programs?
I can't think of the right words, so I am sending good vibes y'all's ways.
Childbirth is scary for these young kids, too. Even if they are attending routine prenatal visits, they don't have reliable experienced non-exaggerating women to consult (relatives are generally not too believable to many kids this age), and the kids get all sorts of wild notions about birth.
She's having a baby, y'all. Culturally, she doesn't live in the world of drive-across-the-river or give-it-up-for-adoption. She lives in the world of I'm-pregnant-and-having-a-baby. The hardest part of being Pro Choice is accepting choices I wouldn't make myself. I understand wanting sex. I understand not believing in abortion. I understand keeping your baby. I understand not crossing your mama, your family, your community. It's why I don't understand not preventing pregnancy in the first place. I don't understand not asking for help when it's offered. I would have driven her to the clinic, bought the condoms. I felt like a safe sex pusher for God's sake. And it didn't work. This time. I'll try harder to help her avoid another one. Sistahs need to work with sistahs and too-young sistahs on this issue. I'll check out the virtual baby shower y'all seem to want to throw. Thanks.
I agree with Riley...
I'd be glad to buy something or crochet a baby blanket.
There by the Grace of God goes the mentee. I could have met a similar fate, what with my mother being the way she was and still IS.
I can't even imagine how awful it must be to have a baby so young. An abortion is SO called for in this situation. I would have done anything to spare my daughters such a nightmare. What is that mother: insane? Well,she says, I just don't believe in abortion, because I'm a good Christian woman. F her.
Sex education and wide open channels of communication. But sometimes even that is not enough. Young girls just don't understand the power of their own bodies. When one is so young, wrapping her head around the idea that her own body will produce a baby, is harder than grasping the concept that the universe is infinite. How do we get beyond that?
I've spent years working in social services in some capacity or another and IMO birth control and abortions aren't the answer. Abstinence only education isn't the answer only. I've handed out birth control and information like a Pez dispenser only to turn around and have those same girls come back pregnant. I live in Alabama, I've made countless 'runs to the border' with young girls in tow, only to have those same girls come back pregnant again a few months later.
There's a desperation, a daddy hunger for male attention that no amount of lecturing or time from another female will ever assuage. These girls are so desperate they're giving boys knobbers in the hallway at middle schools. Do you really think they're in a mindset to hear about safety and prevention of disease/pregnancy? When I worked at Job Corps staff had to constantly round up young girls doing the same out in public, even though they knew we had security cameras everywhere! These girls aren't having sex because they're horny. Good grief, who's any worse in bed than a teen boy? Most of them don't even have a clue as to what a clit is, and wouldn't give a damn if they did know. No, its about getting a boy, any boy, because they don't have a man at home.
As a dyed in the wool feminist, it makes me crazy to say this, but unless and until we get our out of wedlock birthrate under control we are going to continue to see these girls take crazy chances in order to be with a guy.
For too many years we've told ourselves that our children don't need daddies. That a woman could be both 'mother and father.' Its past time that we stop deluding ourselves.
I became pregnant when I was 17 and there weren't anyone writing beautiful blog postings about my situation, or others becoming inspired and checking out Big Sister websites, it was just me and my equally promiscuous and in some sense stupid friends trying to handle such a big thing on our own. By 17 I certainly wasn't the first of my "crew" to become pregnant, so it was a matter of finding where to go, getting the money from Patrick "whatever the hell his last name is" and making an appointment. At that time abortion was basically another form of contraception to us (And by us I mean every other high school girl in my home town). Everyone was doing it. Now that I'm older, and supposedly wiser, I would hope I could say that I see the error of my ways, but I still see myself doing the same things but just in a different way. I know there's a wake up call in this story somewhere, I'm just still looking for it.
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