High School "Pregnancy Pact" an Urban Legend

Rumors of reproductive conspiracy greatly exaggerated.
Time Magazine's story about an alleged "pregnancy pact" at a Massachusetts high school appears to have been based on unsubstantiated rumors.

The reporter heard the story from the school principal during an interview about a recent spike in teen pregnancies at the school. The principal claimed that the spike was due to seven or eight girls who decided to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Time published the principal's story without further corroboration. The sensational tale made headlines worldwide. Like all good stories, this one improved in the re-telling. MSNBC reported that there were seventeen conspirators in the group, up from seven or eight in the principal's original claim.

Alarmed, the mayor of the town pressed the principal for details about the alleged pact. According to the mayor, the principal's memory was foggy when he was pressed for details. He couldn't remember how he heard about the pact. Now, the principal has issued a statement challenging the mayor's claims about his shaky memory.
Time published the assertion without further evidence. On Monday, Mayor Carolyn Kirk said that an inquiry had turned up no evidence of a pact, and she claimed that Mr. Sullivan “was foggy in his memory of how he heard this information.” And a local newspaper reporter covering the story closely said “the idea of the pact is not something we had reported and not something we have found.”
In his latest comments, Mr. Sullivan aimed “to put to rest the notion” that he had difficulty recalling his underlying evidence:
My only direct source of information about the intentional pregnancies at the high school was the former nurse practitioner at the Health Center. My other sources are verbal staff reports and student/staff chatter, all of which I have found to be very reliable in my experience as a principal and all of which I filter myself for accuracy and keep confidential.
Kim Daly, the former head nurse practitioner who was his direct source, told The New York Times that she could not back up the “pact” claim. “It was complete news to me,” said Ms. Daly. “I have never heard of it, ever.” [The Lede]
One of the pregnant girls told Good Morning American that was no pact. The 17-year-old says that a bunch of girls who were already expecting decided that they would help each other raise their babies while staying in school. Somehow, the rumor mill twisted this benign self-help arrangement into a bizarre sex pact.

The pregnancy pact story had the ring of an urban legend from the very beginning. The reporter and the public were way too eager to believe that wanton females besotted by Juno were getting pregnant to take advantage of their high school's inclusive policies for teen moms. This wasn't journalism, it was a bad morality play. Now the shoddy story is finally unraveling.
Lindsay Beyerstein a New York writer blogging at Majikthise.
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