Wednesday, February 13

Thanks for choosing life! . . . now piss off.



Burleson, Texas, is a Fort Worth suburb located in Johnson and Tarrant counties. These two counties went for Bush by margins of 68%-30% and 61%-37%, respectively, in 2000 and margins of 73%-26% and 62%-37% four years later. Burleson was where the "See You at the Pole" Christian prayer events started in 1990. Alcohol sales were not legalized in Burleson until November 2006. So I think it's safe to say we're talking about a pretty conservative community here.

The kind of community that you'd think would embrace a teenager who went through a situation like this:


Brittani Shipman, a self-proclaimed "wild child," has turned her life around since the birth of her child and is making better grades. The yearbook staff took notice and included her in a yearbook story about two student parents.

. . .

Ms. Shipman said that she originally planned to place her child up for adoption. Once her daughter was born, however, those plans changed and she worked to turn her life around.

"Allow my story to be told; and allow others to benefit from my experiences and what I've accomplished," said Ms. Shipman, who has a 1-year-old daughter.


One would think that in a conservative community like this one, her decision to carry the child to term rather than have an abortion would be applauded. But the principal, Paul Cash, spiked a yearbook article about Miss Shipman and the struggles she was having to overcome in raising a daughter.

Her classmates decided to write about Shipman's story of choices and challenges in the yearbook.

But school administrators said the article would glamorize pre-marital sex and send the wrong message.


When I look at a story like this one, I see a) a tailor-made opportunity for pro-lifers to laud a young girl who chose to keep her baby and b) a cautionary tale for other teenagers who may not really understand how incredibly difficult it is to raise a child. But apparently the school administrators didn't see either of those things.

Superintendent Mark Jackson said the district teaches an abstinence-based curriculum, and that if the yearbook wants to write a story about overcoming obstacles, they may need to find another example.


Ahh, now we see what this is really about: that "abstinence-based curriculum" failed dramatically in at least one instance, and now they want to make sure that instance is kept under wraps.

The Shipman case is a microcosm of everything that is head-slappingly screwed-up about the right wing's attitudes toward sex and pregnancy. Basically, the way they think things should work is this: If you're in high-school, you should only be exposed to an inaccuracy-laden form of sex education that is no more likely to keep you from having sex than other forms of sex ed. When you do go ahead and have sex anyway, chances are you get pregnant, because you never got any accurate information about birth control or contraceptives. Once you get pregnant, you have to carry the child to term, because abortion is wrong -- but even if you do keep the baby, we're still going to shun you and treat you as a leper because you never should've had sex in the first place. And God forbid you work hard, finish your schooling and make something of yourself, because then you're "glamorizing" teen pregnancy and demonstrating to your peers that God doesn't automatically make pregnant teens spontaneously combust in a fireball of shame. Here's a question: How many pregnant teenage girls will see a story like this -- in which another girl did everything she was "supposed" to do in handling her pregnancy, yet still got treated as damaged goods by the Powers That Be -- and figure that, if that's as good as things get when you actually "choose life," they might as well get an abortion?

Of course, working to create circumstances that will actually increase the demand for abortion is nothing new to the right wing. But not only are they working against reducing abortions, they're working against teenagers -- particularly girls -- at every single step of the process. And we wonder why our kids are so messed up? The most galling part of this is that if Brittani Shipman had entered into a shotgun wedding with the father of her child, dropped out of school, moved into a trailer and stayed at home while her husband supported the both of them, the school district would be happier because this problem would've simply swept itself under the rug and they would never have had to muck with it.

I'm not sitting here saying Brittani Shipman's experience is representative of that of all pregnant teens, but it's real life, and maybe there's something in her experience that will switch on a light bulb over the head of some other teenage girl who's heading down her same path. You can either give teenagers the information they need to keep from getting pregnant, or you can go ahead and let them get pregnant but then give them the information and role models they need to keep their lives from going completely down the toilet as a result. Instead, the school administrators in Burleson are sticking their heads in the sand twice: First they ignore that teenagers are having sex whether they like it or not, then they ignore that teens are actually getting pregnant because of it.

And now they're effectively trying to punish Brittani Shipman for succeeding despite not having followed their completely unrealistic, head-in-the-sand plan for how teen sexuality should work. She may have made a mistake, and I think she as much as admits that, but she's breaking with the right-wing storyline that she should be forced to carry that shame around with her forever, no matter what.

One of these days we're going to wise up and put a higher priority on intelligence and actual success than slapping scarlet letters on people. Maybe even in Burleson, Texas. I just hope I'm still around when it happens.

27 comments:

Picture Me Rollin said...

That is a great story and I appreciate you putting it out there. The post is making my feeble mind churn out thought after thought. I can think of many things to write in this space but they would all be inadequate to convey my opinions on the story and issues that spring from it.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could say I was surprised, but unfortunately, it is very predictable. One thing to consider is that in a lot of ways this isn't just a religion-is-screwy-issue. It is actually more about politics, imo. There are no indications in what I read that any church group or minister is behind it. Rather, I suspect this is politicians (and yeah, that's what school superintendents are) doing what they think will play well with the religious right that vote. If Jesus Christ were standing in Mark Jackson's office, tracing his finger on the floor and saying "let the one without sin cast the first stone", Mark Jackson would be heaving rocks as fast and hard as he could if he thought it was politically advantageous. It reflects the somewhat twisted interpretation we put on what we think we learn in church. There is a scene in Angela's Ashes where young Frank McCourt has had First Communion and the family has a big party (this is very common in Ireland) and Frank gorges on what ever sweets he can cram down his pie hole, and of course, he gets sick and vomits. The vomiting freaks out his mother, and his relatives who are certain that he has vomited up the Body and Blood, and is therefore going to be condemned to hell unless he goes to confession. So they make him go to the church and get the priest and in the process of telling the story in the confessional, the priest rolls his eyes, and tells young Frank not to worry about it. So much of what is regrettable about religion isn't the teachings or the precepts; it is how we twist them and go out of our way to impose our twisted ideas on others.

duff said...

I think George Carlin said it best...

"If you're pre-born, you're fine... if you're pre-school, you're fucked"

Universal REMONSTER said...

Nice story Doug. It's a shame that this is going on in every state around the country as well. Stupid people, man.

Anyway - two reasons to celebrate would be that Barack PWNED Hillary yesterday and it's only 52 days until G-Day. Hurrah.

Megan said...

Hi. I'm the editor of the yearbook-in-discussion (really - I am. I don't think I'm well-known enough to be impersonable yet. ;)) I really enjoyed your blog, and I'm glad that at least some people out there don't think we're nuts.

If I can ask, how did you come across the article? Just curious. :)

Anonymous said...

What do you expect, Doug? Personal unaccountability and teenage pregancy were launched on a new trajectory in 1965 with LBJ's failed war on poverty. To blame the right for trying to grapple with the mess that liberals have put us in is a little disingenuous, don't you think? Teenage pregnancy deserves no ink, neither does abortion. But, then, what would your vaunted popular culture be without it? What happened to shame? Oh, I forgot, the Clintons' killed it.

Anonymous said...

You have got to be kidding me. Do you seriously consider your "might as well let them have sex" mentality as being right?

First, Abstinence is always the best policy. You can't get pregnant if you don't have sex. You can't get STD's if you don't have sex. You can't end up with a kid you don't want if you don't have sex.

You can't seriously attest to the fact that abstinence is an inaccurate form of sex ed. I honest can't believe that you would have a premise like this. What makes it inaccurate? Simply because you don't get experience what you are being taught. (insert sarcasm)

Second, Policy, even an "abstinence based" one, never dictates morality. Countless examples of the Leftist regime demanding policy on issues of abortion, gay rights and socialism can be given indicating the same approach as this school board. Simply because the left want to make same-sex marriage legal does not mean I have to believe that these types of marriages are legitimate.

Clearly, you intend to bash the school board here simply because their policy does not work. Well, the left policy does not work either. My point, then, is that making an argument based upon false premises speaks of faulty reasoning.

Third, In what way does abstinence increase the demand for abortion? Sardonically, the less people have sex the more abortions there will be. This can't be your argument and yet it is.

Oh I see, abstinence only confuses people and makes them want to have sex.

Fourth, Mistakes, you aver, are okay and consequences for our actions should not exist. Should we look at the child rapist who has served his term in prison with the same "compassionate" eyes? I bet if he was your next door neighbor you would not. I mean he has served his debt to society and he is getting his life turned around. But when you catch him looking at your daughter, niece, or sister, all of whom are under the age of 10, you certainly don't act as if he is their loving uncle whomever.

Please, think about what you are saying because abstinence is not the result of stupid people. If that was the case then everyone would be a genius.

Crispy said...

You're right; this case is embarrassing. But it would inaccurate to view this as anything but a rarity. The pro-life community is -- even more than it is religious, even more than it is political -- genuinely pro-child. That's why there are so many homes for women with young children like Elizabeth House, so many diaper-and-clothing drives, so many fundraisers by people in the community on behalf of the women who do make the beautiful choice for life. It's these bullheaded administrators and other self-styled Important People who fail to walk the walk. People whose loyalties are divided are seldom capable of making good decisions -- and are frequently "in charge."

DC Trojan said...

Some tremendous work from the anonymi here.

For starters, the welfare rules in the 60s that prohibited benefits from going to married couples with children - on the grounds that men should be supporting their chattelry - were inserted to placate Republicans and conservative Democrats. No surprise that people followed the incentives.

As for the notion that the Clintons killed shame, it is to laugh. No side has a monopoly on shamelessness in politics, as demonstrated by the various fat philanderers in the Congressional Republican group that pursued Bill "The Bonkmeister" Clinton in an impeachment that was in no way intended to block and (perchance to dream) remove an sitting President who had the audacity to win two elections.

As for the spluttering second anonymous, words almost fail me. Any sex ed approach that is designed to prevent teen pregnancy is a deterrent measure, and you can only tell that deterrents are failing - not whether they are working. So the question is, which deterrent fails more?

The answer, no surprise, is abstinence - because teenagers are going to have sex whether they access to birth control or not. People who have sex without birth control are self-evidently more likely to get pregnant than both those who abstain and those who use birth control. So, with plenty of data to show that teenagers have sex even if all you tell them is not to do it, then it makes sense to have more than one approach to deterring teen pregnancy. And, if abstinence-only programs fail more often, resulting in more pregnancies, then the odds are correspondingly higher that some of those pregnancies will be terminated.

As for the assertion that the "left policy" doesn't work either, it's because it doesn't go far enough. Go look at the Netherlands, which has a negligible rate of teen pregnancies and therefore of abortions also. That's a policy that works.

But it's no surprise that those teenagers who are having sex might not be entirely forthcoming when judgmental twats like the second anonymous compare a single teenage mother to a convicted child rapist. Second anonymous, I have to ask: are you out of your fucking mind? I mean, are you so fucking deranged that you would make equivalent a young woman who is trying to do the right thing after an unplanned pregnancy with a pervert and a criminal? The example this young woman set is that of someone who is taking responsibility for her own actions.

I can only hope that the second anonymous was trying so desperately to come up with a strawman position about personal accountability that he backed into sounding like a merciless imbecile with the moral sensibilities of a particularly backward five year old.

Actually, my five year old daughter looks like a moral philosopher by comparison.

Anonymous said...

It is true that religion has given God a bad name but you can't refute that if we followed God's teachings as laid down in the Bible's tenets, we would all be better off.

dc, the Clinton's took shamelessnes to a new level and into the White House, no less. And before you invoke stats from the Netherlands, I suggest you look at their culture a little closer and you will find that careless sex and its outcomes are frowned upon. Indeed, they have achieved balance between freedoms and personal responsibility. We're a long way from responsible behavior.

Please, don't defend the failed war on poverty. Your suggestion that more of a bad policy is what will fix the bad policy is an incredible self-indictment of your shameless ignorance.

Megs said...

I think I have a mind-crush on dc trojan.

Will said...

I get the feeling they don't have The Scarlett Letter on the English reading lists at schools like this too. Or, if by some change they do, they teach it as a "this is how things should be NOW" story.

DC Trojan said...

@ anonymous, 6.59 a.m.

Well. As for the word of God, I've made it this far without stoning adulterers and those who break Jewish dietary laws. A good friend who happens to be Catholic once described me as "invincibly ignorant" on matters of faith, which I think was a polite way of saying that I have the spiritual sensitivity of a small rock. However, I do recognize the value and the challenge of the phrase "love one another as you love yourself" - a challenge that I routinely fail, as I did and am about to again in addressing you.

Anon, we may have to agree to disagree on what constitutes the height of shamelessness in the White House. You are unimpressed with the Clintons, I am unimpressed by a charlatan who claims that his faith tells him to start wars. If history teaches us anything, it is that God seems to support rather a lot of wars, which makes me wonder if indeed He or She supported any of them. Why you appear to rate adultery as being worse than anything else is a matter for your moral conscience but I do find it puzzling.

As for the Netherlands, I'm fairly familiar with the country having lived there for 6 years - and while that was some time ago, I'm pretty sure that your characterization of "careless" sex being frowned upon is a load of hooey - it is a country where the age of consent can be as low as 12, after all. That's not to say that all Dutch people are engaged in a perpetual orgy - there's a wide variety of social opinions, but the mushy middle is far more liberal on the subject of teenage sex or indeed any sex than you imply.

Finally, your comments about "the war on poverty" are another effort to create a strawman argument. I didn't say anything one way or the other about whether existing policies should be continued - what I did say is that the policies as originally enacted created an incentive to break up families, and this is an indisputable fact. Plainly there's more to the breakdown of the American family than just welfare policy or only the poor would attract your censorious glare, rather than any broken family of any social category.

Anonymous said...

All this talk of the Netherlands is interesting to me - my mother was born there, and I have a lot of relatives there. The thing about the Dutch is they have less in the way of natural resources than probably any other developed country (they don't even have much in the way of dirt, and had to take part of that back from the sea), and yet they have global interests in banking (ING), electronics (Phillips), oil (Shell), and they basically control the market in flowers and historically in diamonds. They are pretty resourceful, and are pretty good at making decisions.

The one thing that they are interested in is setting a goal, and finding a way to achieve the goal. So, if the goal is to avoid unwanted pregnancies, it is irrelevant to them that abstinence will achieve the goal if abstinence is unworkable in practice. Sure, they might like for their people to have some morals, but morals is something that changes from one person to the next, and from time to time, and even sometimes, from one situation to another. For sure, there are Dutch who wish that they didn't have to have the policies they have, but not many who would actually insist that their preference is workable.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, we have Dubya and his ilk insisting that we continue to pound square pegs into round holes....

DC Trojan said...

@ nederlandse Anon @ 11.15 - I wish I had put it that well. Pragmatic doesn't even begin to cover it.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I didn't know that Clinton's faith led us into the Balkans. Do you have a source for that, dc?

I lived and worked in Appledorn for a decade, as an adult. I know the Netherlands well. They are very mature about their freedoms. I totally disagree with you comment about teens and sex in the Netherlands, just ask my daughter who went back to live and practice law at the Haig.

I broached the war on poverty as an example of how failed liberal social programs have had a hand in getting us to where we are today...in the moral shitter...and how inappropriate it is for Doug to attack moral conservatives for attempting to deal with it. Shame, fear of God, etc. at one time was, and in certain societies still is, an effective strategy. American secular, popular society has marginalized these approaches with their "live and let live" crap. Like smoking dope is a victimless crime...until someone stoned gets behind the wheel.

We agree on the war on poverty. A dismal failure. Time for a new direction.

Other than that, most of your comments are mindless ramblings. Nice try, though.

a former preacher said...

Anon 6:59 -- I have, in fact, read the bible. Front cover to back cover. More than 20 times as single straight-through readings. In addition, I have probably read it a cumulative 500 or so times more than that while reading piecemeal. I can assure you that I want no part of any society that lives by strict biblical law.

Just as one example, I would really hate to have to stone my teenage daughter to death if she did not marry a man who raped her.

Sharia law is, in many ways, very similar to what you, Mr. Anonymous 6:59am, seem to think would be a great way to live. I challenge you to go to a county that lives under Sharia and see how you really like it.

I've done it - I lived in Saudi Arabia for 3 years. I spent the last 8 1/2 months of that time in a Saudi prison for spreading heresy (I was talking about Christianity to some kids) before I was made persona non grata and deported.

Doug - great post. I believe that young ladies like this, who take personal responsibility and work hard to improve themselves, are what makes this country a great place to live.

Anonymous said...

Dear anon @12:22, you betray your ignorance by professing to "know the Netherlands well", and then proceed to refer to "the Haig". In English, it is The Hague; in the Netherlands it is Den Haag. Only in your imagination is it the Haig. Talk about ramblings...sheesh.

DC Trojan said...

Anon @ 12.22. So what on earth does one do in Apeldoorn for 10 years? Aside from not learning how to spell the name, which 10 seconds on google maps could have told you (along with the Hague / Den Haag distinction)?

I am entertained by your obtuse reading of anything not explicit: since you pretend not to have grasped it, I was referring to our current President and his claim to have taken divine counsel in deciding to order the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. Nice try with the Balkans though; couldn't you have at least come up with the missile attack on the aspirin factory in the Sudan? I though the "wag the dog" nature of that incident made it a favorite of right-wing believers.

As for your contention that the rest of my comments represent mindless ramblings, I've yet to see you come up with a coherent defense of anything you've said. Distort, insult, change the subject - anything but actually present a specific rebuttal of anything that I've said. Instead, sophomoric rhetorical tricks are the order of the day. Poor form, sir, and therefore your accusation is not to be taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

This was pretty timely for me. My 15 year old daughter told me last night that a girl in one of her classes is pregnant. Both the girl's parents are dead (I don't know the circumstances) and she lives with an elderly grandmother. According to my daughter, the girl works afterschool until late, every day to support them.

She is happy about being pregnant, hopeful that the teenage father (who she has been with for about 6 weeks) will marry her. No doubt hoping that he will take her away from all that.

My very wise 15 year old sees that the whole thing is a train wreck, but also knows that she's not in any position to change anything about the situation. It just makes me want to cry for everyone involved.

--- JT in SC ---

Anonymous said...

"8:3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in
adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 8:4 They say unto
him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

8:5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but
what sayest thou? 8:6 This they said, tempting him, that they might
have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said
unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a
stone at her.

8:8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

8:9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience,
went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and
Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 8:11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."

Kanu said...

Incredibly on point, Doug.

That story is fucked up in too many ways to even mention, but you covered the bases quite well.

Kanu said...

Oh, and Megs: welcome to the club; most of us have been here for a few years. Go grab some punch, and then I'll introduce you around- it's a very friendly group.

Finally, DCT- Words fail me, to describe accurately the degree to which you fucking rock. On your regular days you're like James McFadden in Stade de France; on your best days you're simply Archie Gemmill on June 11, 1978.

DC Trojan said...

Too kind, Kanu, too kind, because most days I'm more like Colin Hendry - nothing flashy, just grinding it out on defense.

Doug said...

This might be piling on, but I couldn't let this comment by 12:22 Anonymous go:

how inappropriate it is for Doug to attack moral conservatives for attempting to deal with it

Is that your idea of a joke? They're not dealing with it. That's the whole point of the post.

The right wing's entire plan for combatting teen pregnancy is to tell teenagers, "Don't have sex." That's it. You have nothing beyond that. What's your contingency plan for when they have sex anyway? Apparently it's to call them sluts and blame liberals. What's your contingency plan for when they get pregnant? Apparently it's to call them stupid welfare queens (and continue blaming liberals). Your only "plan" is blind faith in a sex-ed curriculum that has been proven not to work, and when it doesn't work, you want to point the finger at people like me.

That doesn't sound like "dealing with" the problem to me.

Anonymous said...

Worked for Motorola in Apeldorn.

Being black, I enjoyed a level of acceptance unlike I experienced in America at the time.

I see nothing wrong with a "just say no" approach to the problem. And prefer adoption to abortion.

Sorry for the spelling problems, I have to use a stick in my mouth to type and sometimes it's easier to accept a misspelled word than to retype it.

DC Trojan said...

Apeldoorn to Nieuwegein is quite a commute by local standards. Hope they were accommodating of your travel and work needs at the time.