Lifetime Original Movies are always tabloid-y (my pops calls them “women in distress films that Mom watches”), but the upcoming flick “The Pregnancy Pact” really takes the cake. Remember a few years ago when the scandal broke that 17 teen girls at Gloucester High School in Massachusetts made a “pregnancy pact” to get knocked up and have their babies together? Remember how everyone freaked out? Then remember how the pregnant girls all agreed the media just made it up and there was no pregnancy pact?
No matter. Lifetime has made a sure-to-be-fantastic, made-for-TV movie all about it, which will air Jan. 23.In “The Pregnancy Pact,” 18 teenage girls promise each other they will get pregnant on purpose so they can raise their babies together. (One of the teen actresses in the Lifetime promo squeals, “We get to dress them up in cute little matching outfits!”) Thora Birch plays a reporter who returns to her hometown to do a story on why so many girls at her old high school are pregnant; Nancy Travis plays the mother of one of the girls in the “pact” and the leader of a local conservative values group; and Camryn Manheim plays the school nurse.
But the real-life people of Gloucester are pissed! Dr. Brian Orr and nurse practitioner Kim Daly (depicted by Manheim in the film) both worked at Gloucester High School, but resigned because they said they did not get the support they needed to provide students with contraception. (Even after all those pregnancies? That’s crazy.) Together they released a statement to the Boston Herald criticizing the film:
“We took care of these kids and we know for a fact that there was no pact. The pact was totally a product of the media, and for the media in any way, movies or otherwise, to continue to take advantage of this idea of the pact is truly disgusting.”
In fairness, Lifetime’s acknowledged that the real-life “pregnancy pact,” which “The Pregnancy Pact” is based on, never existed. They’ve released a statement:
This film is the story of a fictional ’pregnancy pact’ set against the backdrop of actual news reports about teen pregnancy from June 2008. The Pregnancy Pact takes a responsible look at the growing national trends of pregnancy and birth rates among teenagers, and we’ve taken great strides to ensure that the subject matter is depicted with sensitivity. At a time when nearly three in ten teenage girls in the U.S. will become pregnant and one in six girls will become a mother by the age of 20, the intent of this film is to raise awareness. Lifetime has partnered with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and will, together, utilize the film as an educational tool for both parents and their teens about this issue. We are proud that this film can open such a critical dialogue.
To some extent, Lifetime probably means well—they are a very pro-women network which raises awareness and money for issues that affect women. Plus, I know Manheim is an ardent women’s rights supporter who lends her name to Ms. magazine and speaks up for reproductive rights, including, I would imagine, making contraception available to everyone who needs it.
But I’m sure I’m not the only one who resents Lifetime for stirring up a moral panic over teen girls having sex with a fictional flick. Lifetime’s statement does not mention the teenage boys who are impregnating one in three teenage girls. How much do you want to bet teen boys having sex plays a small role (if it plays any role at all) in “The Pregnancy Pact”? And one more thing: judging by the YouTube clip and the promotional email that I received from Lifetime, all the pregnant girls in this flick look Caucasian. According to the Guttmacher Institute, black teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 had the highest teen birth rate in 2000, followed by Hispanic girls and then whites. Why is there a moral panic—and ensuing made-for-TV movie—only when a bunch of white teenage girls get pregnant?
Look, I’ve TiVoed the movie and I’ll definitely watch it. But let’s not kid ourselves: Lifetime claims they’re raising awareness about teen pregnancy with their made-for-TV-movie, but they’re also capitalizing on a big, juicy fictional made-for-tabloids story as well. [UPI, UPI, Boston Herald]