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Alleged pact puts new focus on teen pregnancy

America's teen pregnancy rate is rising for the first time since 1991, worrying experts.

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A shocking assertion that underage girls promised one another they would become pregnant and raise their babies together has focused a bright light on the resurgent problem of teen pregnancy in America.

Whether there was such a plan in this overwhelmingly white city on Boston's North Shore is in dispute. After Gloucester High School witnessed 17 pregnancies this school year – more than quadruple last year's average of four – the school principal attributed the surge to a "pact" among "seven or eight" girls in a Time magazine article. But at a press conference Monday, school Superintendent Christopher Farmer said there was a "distinct possibility" that the girls simply decided post-pregnancy to "come together for mutual support."

Yet the incident is alarming whether or not students entered into a pact, experts say. At a time when the nation's teenage pregnancy rate is rising for the first time since 1991, the Gloucester High controversy has rekindled a longstanding debate over how best to discourage teen pregnancies.

"What's happening in Gloucester is a microcosm in some ways for what we're seeing at the national level," says Bill Albert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington. "The good news is that we have made extraordinary progress as a nation [since the early 1990s] in convincing people to delay sexual activity and delay pregnancy and parenthood. The bad news is that that progress seems to have come to a complete standstill and, in some ways, has reversed."

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