16 and Pregnant Season Finale: Part One

22 Jun

chanel and megan-01

For our first summary we have Courtney from Woodland Park, Colorado! The video isn’t yet available on the MTV website.

Chanel: Okay, the part that did not go so well is where there was no birth control or failed birth control, not sex. Unless the sex wasn’t good, in which case, I am sorry.

Megan: Yeah, there seems to be a lot of black and white thinking about sex v. no sex in this episode. Courtney thinks that she wants to stick with her religious beliefs and morals, and says, “I’m worried that if I move in with you I will be tempted to have sex.” There is no room for having sex and enjoying it before marriage.

C: What “level” are you on, Courtney? Is it a level that we can actually get on? Ughhhh. I don’t want to shame her or her beliefs, but it’s hard to deal with the association between sex and morality, because I don’t actually think sex is not moral.

M: I think what’s sad to me is that it’s clear that she loves Scott, enjoys sex, and knows it would make sense to move in with him so that they could both help parent, but feels like it is something immoral to be sleeping with him before they are married. She says: “I got my morals back” after she started not having sex after she became pregnant.

Horribly phrased question: Dad: “Where are you at now with being pure?”

C: It’s confusing to me that there’s not shaming from her dad. He says it’s normal to want sex. It doesn’t seem like he’s punishing her? (Yet?)

M: I mean, he kind of is, though? It’s great to say that it’s normal for her to want to have sex, but at the same time, he’s saying she’s “not pure” and that she messed up. So in some ways I think she is getting mixed messages.

C: That’s true. I think I’m looking at this episode alongside Jazmin, and compared to that one, Courtney’s  dad is a feminist.

M: Ha! So true.

On the other hand, Courtney is good at holding multiple emotions at once and understanding complex realities, both about her decision not to have sex and her baby’s cleft lip. She says, “We’re blessed, but I’m keeping an open mind.”

C: Okay, it’s possible that I’m confused bc so far Scott is not an asshole? BUT I’m also automatically pissed off when dudes say, ‘I’m trying to think positive. You’re being negative.’ ‘Negative’ is code for seeing things as complicated, instead of as black and white.

M: Truth.

Hey! This is one of the first times that we are actually seeing the couple apply for benefits.

C: Yes! Good work, you two. Also, we’re talking about self image in whole new way this episode, for once. It’s not about weight.

M: Courtney: “I’m scared for the epidural.” Dad: “You don’t have to have it.” I’m so confused about whether I like her dad or not.

C: I think she means she’s scared of the needle?

M: Oh, I know. But he continuously speaks to her in a way that is supportive of her choices and gives her multiple options? Except for the sex before marriage thing – kind of.

C: True. I don’t know what to make of him either. My ability to evaluate anything on this show has gotten so warped…by this show.

M: I am kind of appalled that they have to pay out of pocket for this cleft lip surgery. Is it not covered by health insurance or do they not have health insurance?

C: I’m seriously still reeling from the fact that Scott asked about money.

M: Scott: I work an 8 to 5. Courtney: I work a 24/7. #Truth

C: Okay, it’s time to bring this up, I think. The language, “helping” v. “parenting” piece. Especially in this situation, with the purity issue and feeling like she “gave in” and failed, I think it’s not an accident that she says “help.” Does she think she has to shoulder all the burdens of childcare – yes, i’m using the word burden- because pregnancy was her fault, plus also all the shit we internalize about women being the primary care giver?

M: You’re right. It seems like she does think that he should “help” but that the rest of it is her responsibility.

I would like to propose that in each of these episodes we have the boyfriend and girlfriend change responsibilities for one day. Get on that, MTV.

C: Ugh, I do not know what to think re: Sexy Times being halted here. I get where Scott’s coming from, they were having The Sex and now they’re not and that’s difficult, but also, Courtney’s entitled to say she wants to wait and to follow through with that. It feels like an impossible situation to me. Maybe they shouldn’t be living together?

M: Yeah, it seems like they are just on two separate pages and both are resentful of each other.

C: I just realized that the crying baby is coming from inside my headphones and not from the coffee shop.

M: OK I was rooting for Scott until now. “He doesn’t need to be a little girl and be held.” “You take care of him all the time… that’s a stay at home mother’s job”. “Everything [we have] is because of me.” OH, OK, RAISING YOUR CHILD IS DEFINITELY NOT PART OF EVERYTHING. And you would definitely have “everything” without having a girlfriend carry, give birth to, and support your baby.

It’s so sad to me that our capitalistic society equates money with identity. Because Courtney isn’t the one making money, she is subordinated and her identity as a mother and her work is not valued.

C: OH SHIT. “It’s been how long now without sex?” Cool, so sex is a commodity that she owes you? It’s a weapon? Are there some MRA’s camped out in your stupid hair whispering in your ear?

I like how this episode crashed and burned in the last five minutes.

M: I can’t even. We were doing so well in the beginning and it ended on maybe the worst note of all of them.

C: What is the take away here? Dudes need sex. ORIGINAL.

M: I would like to end as usual by sending love to Courtney and baby, but also by letting her know that she does not have to settle for defining her self worth based on outdated patriarchal constructs.

C: My ending thoughts consist of inarticulate sputters of rage.

M: I like that you can tell the severity of our feelings about each episode based on the number of images we choose to include.

 

 

Reclaiming a Crisis: Backline is Working to Open the First All Options Pregnancy Center

20 Jun

By: Catrina Otonoga

If you dare utter the initials CPC in a room full of pro-choicers in a positive light, you better be prepared for some backlash. Talking about crisis pregnancy centers as a positive institution among reproductive justice, reproductive rights, and reproductive health advocates elicits a room full of negative reactions.

CPCs manipulate women at a vulnerable time in their lives.

CPCs don’t educate people about all their options.

CPCs hurt women.

So imagine my surprise when I was talking to Parker Dockray, Executive Director of Backline, about how she wants to emulate the crisis pregnancy center model.

“The model that CPCs have developed is valuable,” said Dockray, “but pregnancy  centers should not be deceptive.”

Dockray and the board and staff at Backline have decided to embark on an unparalleled mission, to create the first all options crisis pregnancy center. Crisis pregnancy centers are some of the most available institutions out there for women who are unsure about their pregnancy. Indiana has over 80, and they are one of 34 states that funnel money directly to crisis pregnancy centers. But they are full of misinformation and missing information.

However, as Dockray told me, CPCs often appear to meet the needs of women, even when they clearly don’t. Backline wants to reclaim the CPC model and create a brick and mortar place for the people of Indiana to turn to for support and community.

For the last 10 years, Backline has been answering the phone and offering support to people looking for options and judgment free counseling surrounding pregnancy. The Backline Talkline answers hundreds of questions each month about pregnancy options, parenting, abortion, adoption, pregnancy loss, miscarriage and other reproductive health topics. While the phone offers confidentiality, a new model could provide women with tangible support.

“The prochoice movement is not always great about visibly supporting parents,” said Dockray. Dockray hopes Backline’s new initiative will become a tangible place to demonstrate support for women across all options. Backline wants to create a place for women and their partners to receive counseling on abortion, adoption, and carrying their pregnancy to term as well as carrying diapers and other items for people to support their partners.

Opening the center in Indiana strikes a cord in a new way. The center will find its home in the middle of a red state, in a college town, surrounded by fields and conservative ideals. Reproductive rights, health and justice organizations are too siloed from each other, with each sticking to their own areas without much overlap or conversation. Backline’s All Options Pregnancy Center would bring these together under one roof, without agenda or pretense. Instead of being siloed, they are setting up shop amidst the silos in America’s Midwest heartland.

Bloomington is a town divided, one side of town is home to Hannah House Crisis Pregnancy Center, and the other is home to Planned Parenthood of Bloomington. Backline would create a middle ground, a place for women and their partners to go for real information. At a time when the middle ground seems like an impossibility in American politics, the Backline All Options Pregnancy Center will be an oasis. An oasis of information, moderatism, and choice, at a time and in a place where that hasn’t existed in a long time.

Welcome to the Midwest, Backline. If you want to help Backline build some walls, knock down some silos, and give people a place do go; click here if you’d like to donate, and click here if you live in Indiana and would like to join in.

16 and Pregnant Recap Double Header: Part Two

15 Jun

chanel and megan-01

 

 

Part two (here’s part one) of our recap double header is Savon, from Marietta, Georgia. The link to the episode isn’t up on MTV, but you can watch it here.

Megan: Oh my gosh. Savonl did not have an abortion because of “the money.” That is devastating.

Chanel: According to the National Network of Abortion Funds, there are some resources: Georgia Reproductive Justice Access Network (GRJAN), Women in Need Fund, and the Atlanta Pro-Choice Action Committee.

Oh, there’s some nuance around abortion in this episode. Savon had thought of abortion herself, but when Eli told her to get one, she thought, ‘You can’t tell me what to do.”

Also, this is a sweeping generalization, but online high school doesn’t seem like it works on this show.

M: I think no school post baby seems to work, no matter if it’s in person or online? I would guess it’s not the method, but rather the time commitment and energy it takes to parent taking priority.

C: Um, did Savon just say she’s looking for a job that’s relaxing?

M: That stopped me too! I just think about how she is trying to get a job but no one is helping her to interview, etc.

C: I totally get where she’s coming from, re: being scared of sex because of pregnancy. I’ve never been pregnant, that I know of, but I totally get the idea of being pregnant  terrifying you to the point where you would not want to do the thing that leads you back to the thing you don’t want.

M: Me too. But I also hear people all the time who are getting abortions say, “I am never having sex again.” And while they mean it, I also worry that that means they won’t have a plan for how to protect themselves in the future.

C: Talk to me about why yellow is not the right color for a boy, Savon’s aunt.

M: The pooping talk in this episode combined with the poop shot in the last episode is really effective birth control for me.

C: I’m totally not a fan of Mauwi telling Savon to take care of her son. It’s okay for her to want to have a relationship and be a mother.

M: I agree with you that she could want more. I think she is just overwhelmed.

C: I also feel like you can’t underestimate the loneliness one might feel having a baby in high school. I like that Savon’s aunt is urging her to talk about her feelings, and she’s telling her that things happen in life that aren’t what you planned. She’s not shaming her. (How low has my bar gotten that not shaming is worth a gold star?)

M: Mauwi is so good with her too. He says, “If you really want to [go to college] you can make it happen. You’re not even 20 yet. You still got more than enough time to make things happen.” It’s clear that he is supportive of her and cares about her.

I wonder if she is depressed? Shutting people out and breaking off relationships could also be a symptom of this. She says, “I don’t feel anything.” She even seems so matter-of-fact in her closing statement.

C: Oh gd, they’re getting swarmed by geese. RUN.

M: I seriously hate geese.
goose

C: Are we ending this recap with a side eye towards geese?

M: I do what I want. I guess you’re right though that we should end by sending love to Savon and Jordan and babies! I also want to hear Savon sing.

 

 

 

16 and Pregnant Recap Double Header! Part One

15 Jun

chanel and megan-01

 

 

For some reason, last week, MTV decided to air two episodes of 16 and Pregnant in a row? So we recapped them. This is the first, Jordan, who’s 17 and from Baltimore, Maryland.

Megan: Derek, “It’s your fault. I hate condoms.”

Chanel:  OH THIS KID. It took eleven seconds for me to hate him.

M: I really appreciate the conversation between Jordan and her friend, Sugar, who got pregnant at around the same time and had an abortion. They both appreciate each other’s decision and are able to talk about what both of their decisions mean for each of them. “Your life still gets to move forward, and mine is moving forward in another direction.”

C: Sugar is such a boss.

M: I think this episode really emphasizes how critical parental support of teen parents is. Jordan and Derek have no money and no place to stay with a baby on the way.

C:  “You need another woman figure in your corner.” So good.

M: I don’t know what makes me suspicious of people who want to help other people for no reason. What does that say about me?

C: I’m also suspicious of that. Especially when it’s something like, letting a pregnant teenager and her boyfriend who won’t get a job live in your house? I’m not that giving.

M: Sugar: “Can you get pregnant when you’re pregnant.” This girl needs some sex ed.

C: Sugar, if you can explain to me how that would work, using actual science, I will be really impressed.

Also, all this talk about strength annoys me. I’m thinking about specifically why.

M: I agree. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think it’s because a. she is already incredibly strong and keeping everything together and b. she shouldn’t have to always feel like she has to keep everything together.

Derek is annoying me more than the other boyfriends, I think because she is totally dependent on him and he is refusing to look for a job.

C: Jordan: “I have a lot to be stressed out about.” Derek: “Like what”? Dude, are you even on this planet?

M: I think at the point where you are making a pregnant girl walk a mile in the snow because her car broke down is the point in which you step in as documentary filmmakers.

C: Gooooodd  point. I always forget that there are people taping this for some reason.

M: Derek: “You’re stuck here. I’m not.” I literally gasped out loud. I am so upset that he would say that to her. She does not deserve that. I usually try to understand the boyfriends’ points of view but that was just so mean. He is all she has.

C: I can’t believe he just told her she’s breathing wrong. YOU’RE BREATHING WRONG DEREK. I’m so mad at this dude that I’m losing my respect for punctuation.

M: Jordan: “I’m sick of relying on handouts.” I understand that it’s not a comfortable feeling to have to accept help from others, but given their situation, it’s what makes sense. I wonder if this same feeling is stopping her from trying to apply for other government benefits? It would make a big difference to have support when the baby comes.

C: I’m starting to think about the impact of having people filming your life on these kids. It’s hard to know what exactly that is.

M: Yeah, especially the more popular the show gets? I imagine you also have to think about your peers watching it later.

I really needed to see that poop/diaper shot. Thank you.

C: Is it supposed to be a scare tactic? Because it’s working.

M: I’m convinced. Tracy: “I don’t have a family to fall back on.” I wonder if she was also a young parent without familial support? Maybe that’s why she feels like she should take care of these young parents.

C: Derek says Sugar is always thinking about the negative stuff that could happen. I feel like he’s probably not into the fact that she had an abortion.

M: We’ve also seen this pattern of thinking from a lot of the fathers on the show. The wanting to not think too many steps ahead or plan for anything negative to happen, whereas the moms usually are thinking farther into the future and stressed out about not having things in place to care for their children. I wonder how much of this is related, even subconsciously, to the fact that the fathers can leave the situation but the moms can’t.

C:I’m totally scared for Jordan and Evie. I also wonder about the policing around the idea that you can’t say you regretyour kid. You can say, “I regret having her now,” but not that you regret having had her? You’re allowed to say that. It’s a real feeling.

M: I mean, she did say that, kind of? That she regretted having her “at such a young age”? I see what you mean but I also kind of get where she’s coming from. Would you ever want your daughter growing up and watching this and then hearing your mom say that she regretted having you? I think she’s trying to protect her and emphasize that she loves her.

C: I agree that it’s important to protect your kid, and I also think there’s a super taboo about women ever expressing ambivalence or regret around parenting that also ties in with the stigma of both teen parenting and abortion. In general, though, I just want people to be able to say their real feelings and not feel trapped by expectations.

M: Yeah, you’re right about that.

Second recap (Savon) on the way! 

 

16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 8: The Recap

8 Jun

chanel and megan-01

This week! Jazmin! From Missouri! 

Megan: The one-sentence summary of this episode calls Jazmin a “sassy midwestern teen”. I’m pretty sure sassy is another word we should eliminate.

Chanel: Agreed. Unless you’re talking about the superb yet now defunct magazine.

M: There’s no mention of abortion, and I wonder how much their religious household played into the decision to parent.

C: You can, however, tell your daughter you’re “majorly disappointed in her.”

M: Jazmin: “I thought birth control would make me fat”. She was also worried that it would cause hair loss.

C: Where did Jazmin get her information about birth control? I feel like the thing about hair reeks of some kind of scary religious/abstinence only program.

M: There’s so much misinformation out there! I’ve had people tell me things they heard about birth control like it will make them unable to have a baby in the future, etc. It’s so easy to get myths and not facts when you’re not sure what websites and information are reputable.

C:  J’s mom is really working this “you had so much potential” angle. She still has potential. That’s what potential IS. You always have it.

 M: It’s so true. Potential isn’t something you lose when you become pregnant. That just speaks to the way we equate careers with identity and devalue parenting.

 C: Oh man, her mom is so sure Dell’s going to screw up.

M: It’s pretty amazing that they are still enforcing the “house rules” (no staying over after 10 PM, no sex) given the situation. It’s another example of how complicated it is when you are trying to parent a parent.

C: They’re so mad. I feel like this is all about shaming.

M: Yeah, they can’t get over the betrayal they feel about the “rule breaking”.

C: Which I feel like is no longer the point.

M: Definitely no longer the point! The whole situation has changed. They have to shift the way they are defining their relationships and what is going on.

C: OH WHAT? “Her legs are crossed, she’s already a little lady.”

M: Oh thank goodness. That way we can wait a few days before we put the bow on her.

C: I just feel like it’s an extension of the shaming re: female sexuality that is all over this episode. Starting early.

M: It’s so terrible! What they are doing is really shaming their daughter and putting all of the childcare responsibility on her.

C: Yep. It’s that bullshit about making your bed and lying in it.

M: It’s also no wonder that there has been so much gendered talk in this episode given that her parents have no qualms about her having to take care of the child by herself without her boyfriend.

C:OH, “when you do things out of Gd’s order….” Right. I forgot about Gd’s order. Maybe they could remind me again.

M: Jazmin’s friend: “Respecting the rules of the house, and raising a daughter, you realize those two things aren’t compatible, right?”

C: Her parents are just not even giving them a change to make it. I mean, they need help. Resent all you want, but don’t sabotage.

M: It also makes me angry that Jazmin and Dell now think that they shouldn’t have had sex and feel guilty about it. Those aren’t the only two options.

C: Yes! This whole episode is such a classic example of what happens when young women learn that they should be ashamed of sex and their bodies AND are given bad/no information about birth control. I’m so mad right now.

M: I would like to end by sending love to Jazmin and baby, and also encouraging Jazmin to check out Scarleteen.

 

The Ties that Bind: It’s Time to End Shackling

4 Jun

By: Catrina Otonoga

They’ve been saying that love has made its way to PA this week. They’ve been saying that equality for all has worked its way down the winding East Coast and is on the brink of the South and Midwest. Love. Equality.

But what has gotten washed away in the seas of good tidings for the state of Virtue, Liberty, and Independence, is a woman tripping and falling face first onto her pregnant belly because of shackles around her legs and waist. She could not protect herself or her fetus because her hands were cuffed behind her back.

What has gotten lost amid tales of happy couples finally getting to share their love is a woman in labor, her ankles shackled to her hospital bed rubbing her skin raw until scars are left, her legs unable to fully open so she can birth her child. Lost is the story of her child being born into a set of shackles, years after the state has banned the practice of shackling.

Shackling is the act of restraining pregnant incarcerated women by chains that link their wrists, ankles, and their bellies. These shackles are used in correctional facilities across the US throughout pregnancy, including during trips to and from the doctor, during labor and delivery, and postpartum.

For a while there, Pennsylvania seemed like a model of the anti-shackling and reproductive justice movement. In 2008, Philadelphia Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla prohibited the widespread practice of shackling women during labor. And, in 2010, the Healthy Birth Act was passed in Pennsylvania that prohibited the use of shackles on pregnant incarcerated women in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy during prenatal visits, labor, delivery, and postpartum.

But, the law isn’t being followed. The state of Pennsylvania has continued to illegally shackle incarcerated women during their second and third trimester of pregnancy stripping them of any of the mores Pennsylvania so proudly scrawls across bumper stickers and state quarters. The ACLU of PA estimates that 820 women a year are restrained while pregnant. Facilities in Pennsylvania filed only 109 incidents of restraint for 15 women in 2012-2013.

Four years later, prenatal clinics are unfamiliar with the law. Four years later, doctors didn’t know they could ask a correctional officer to remove the restraints. Most clinicians had never spoken to a correctional about security concerns, and many believed that using restraints was only for the correctional officer to decide and not medical personnel.

Only twenty states restrict the use of restraints on pregnant women with a statute. But, if what is happening in Pennsylvania is happening with a law in place, what is happening across the rest of the country?

I have never given birth. Honestly, I don’t even know if giving birth is in the cards for me. I imagine it hurts, an unbearable amount. I also imagine that there is nothing more joyful and loving than holding that bright red screaming baby after that hurt. I imagine it’s like no feeling I can imagine.

I have never been arrested. Never felt that cool steel around my wrists or ankles or pregnant stomach. Never felt that gut dropping feeling of uncertainty about the rest of my life.

The idea of facing these two forces, this incomparable pain and joy, the horror of detainment and arrest is unimaginable to me. Yet, every day women across the United States face this. They face it while they are in labor and delivery and while they hold their screaming red baby for the first time.

The reasons we imprison women in this country are complex, the reasons we shackle them are historic and myriad. But it does not make them right. Like many historic institutions in this country, it is time for shackling pregnant incarcerated women to come to an end. It is time to bring love and dignity to Pennsylvania.

For reproductive justice oriented organizing and mobilizing in PA check out New Voices Pittsburgh

16 and Pregnant, Season 5, Episode 7: The Recap

1 Jun

chanel and megan-01

 

This week!  Aleah from St. Louis, MO. Watch the whole episode here

Chanel: Okay, so far we’re only at the opening and we  have diabetes, juvenile detention, and a dude with a kid.  Yikes.

Megan: It’s interesting that his mom is so willing to babysit. She says it’s the “grandmother’s job”.

C: We’ve seen a few different ideas of what it means to be a grandparent this season, right? Folks have been reticent, resentful, and now this.

M: It just goes to show that there’s no “right way” to be a grandparent, just like there’s no right way to be a parent.

C:  I feel like Depo hasn’t been talked about on this show so much before.

M: Depo is a great option for people who want a hormonal method but might not be able to remember to take the pill everyday. But the catch is that you have to be consistent with getting to your provider to get the next shot! I’ve talked to a lot of folks who have missed the appointment for the next shot and gotten pregnant in the interim.

C: This segment reminds me of how much basic maintenance there are with kids. like, you have to remind them to brush their back teeth. Yikes.

M: I hadn’t thought before about how much stress it must cause to have to worry that you are going to pass along diabetes to your infant. On top of the general stress about pregnancy and parenting!

C: Seriously. Also, again, there’s no mention of abortion ever being an option, even though this is a high risk pregnancy. I am getting really sick of MTV editing out, or never asking, about the process of deciding to give birth.

M: So she is having an early delivery and her doctor said they wanted to “avoid a stillbirth”! Most terrifying thing to tell someone! Ever!

C: I like how Aleah’s saying the word “vagina.”

M: I am so relieved that the baby is OK. Can you imagine how much you would beat yourself up if you thought you were responsible for something wrong with your newborn?

C:  Why are we not talking about the fact that Shawn/Sean might be speeding with tiny people in the car? Why has that not come up?

M: At least he doesn’t want to buy a new truck?

C: Or a dog.

M: So what’s interesting about this episode is that Aleah is the one living with the boyfriend’s family and the one who feels trapped and needs to leave. This seems like a reversal from what usually happens – that the boyfriend feels trapped by the baby, parents, and situation and wants to leave.

C:  It’s not clear to me that she feels trapped, just that there’s not space.

M: That’s true. It also means that she must trust him in a caretaking capacity to leave the baby there overnight, even though it is clearly tearing her up. That’s not usually something we see either.

C: “I don’t think you should split with Shawn/Sean because I think the natural parents should try and try again.” That sentence just gave me an enormous headache.

M: “Natural parents” is a phrase I could go without hearing again.

C: SHAWN/SEAN. “Our relationship should go both ways, at least until we get our own place.” It goes both ways no matter where you live, dude. GOD.

M: OK, does he just not understand what he’s saying? I think he means he’s willing to sacrifice and meet her where she is and hopefully they will be more on the same page once they move in together. But maybe that’s me being too optimistic!

C: It’s hard to tell, I think, between editing and the fact that every week on this show is a depiction of a power struggle.

M: This one ended on such a sad note. She is teary and regretful and wishes she “had it together” because her kids “deserve better”. I just want to let her know that it’s fine to be sad but to remember that she is a good mother who is doing her best, and that what kids need to thrive is a safe and loving environment.

C: I think that’s the lesson no matter what, right? Every week.

M: Every week I just want to hug them all and tell them they are doing their best! You are all such good mamas. Don’t let anyone (like, the internet) tell you otherwise.