Sunday, January 02, 2005

This makes me want to cry

The first baby born in 2005. . .is to a 15-year old girl.

This Sun-Times story lays out the first baby in Chicago born in 2005.

To a freshman in high school.

So terribly sad.

I don't know what it takes to end teenage pregnancy, but whatever it is, I'm for it.

UPDATE: Thanks to the discussion in the comments, one thing we can do is to prosecute these perpetrators of statutory rape. Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine makes these decisions. His website is www.statesattorney.org

UPDATE TWO: Eric Zorn turns a memorable phrase on this story:

Teen sex-crime victims bearing babies out of wedlock is nothing to celebrate.

25 comments:

FightforJustice said...

The father of the child is 19. Here's a policy that should unite liberals and conservatives: Aggressive prosecution of adult males who impregnate girls under the age of consent. Are you listening, Dick Devine???

CrazyTeach said...

I agree...it's a very sad situation. That is one thing, being a teacher, that I never want to have to be confronted with. My kids are of the age where they are very curious in that respect. I do have a student who had a baby, but the baby died. I mean, these are babies having babies. What happened to the days where that was taboo???

FightforJustice said...

What happened to the days when the crime of statutory rape was prosecuted? This girl may have been impregnated when she was 14. He's an adult.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Yeah, right on. We should prosecute statutory rape. That's a great idea. That will chill the behavior of adult males who impregnate girls. Let's all call Dick Devine and try to get a response. Hell, these men are easy to find. Let's put them where they belong: IN JAIL. So that we can change the culture and calculation of those men who are thinking of dating girls -- if you have sex with a girl, you will go to jail. I think that will cause these men to look to date women instead of girls. Please publish any responses from Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine's office anyone gets. I'll try to find an email address.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

I sent an email to stateattorney@cookcountygov.com

Anonymous said...

You are never going to solve the teen prgnancy problem by prosecuting more statutory rapists. To suggest so is very short sighted. How about addressing the real problem: the distribution of wealth in our society and access not just to education, but to the social resorces necessary to make sex not the only form of pleasure and entertainment available to a large percentage of the underclass. Sex is a powerful proxy for more spiritually significant human contact. When people feel loved and have meaninful social relationships, they tend to rely less on sex as temporary means for overcoming their seperateness and exestential isolation.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Anonymous, what's the alternative? Poor people deserve to be loved and cherished just like wealthy people -- but we shouldn't tolerate men preying on girls just because they are poor. It is a crime. And it should be a crime. I agree with your premise that if we reduce poverty we'll reduce teen pregnancy -- up to a point. Part of this is cultural, not economic. And culture can change with rigid enforcement of criminal laws. Just ask the Chicago Police who are changing the culture of gun possession (slowly) by rigid enforcement of criminal laws. It's no panacea, but if enforcement of statutory rape laws stops a few men from preying on girls with sex and leaving these girls pregnant, you tell me what's wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

Dan,
First, why do you assume every time a 19 year old has sex with a 15 year old it is some sort of predation? The law is the law, and I understand the satutory definition of the crime and the strict liability. But, while not true of all 15 year olds, many are able to make informed decisions about their sex lives. I am not convinced that a 19 and 15 year old can't under any circumstances be in a mature loving relationship. It is no conicidence that in other countries and cultures 15 year olds are married off and are child bearing. That being said, I'm not convinced our bright line rule is appropriate in all circumstances, and isn't more indicative of our country's puritan roots more than anything else. Your reaction to a cultural problem to enforce strict liability laws is a little scary IMHO.

LK

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Louis, I can't believe this. You want to tolerate 15 year old girls having babies in the name of cultural diversity? Gimme a break. There's a world of difference between 19 and 15, no matter the gender, and I'm very comfortable with a bright line rule. I'm uncomfortable that we're not prosecuting violations of this bright line rule (the baby's daddy had a restraining order put against him by the father of the 15 year old girl, which isn't exactly strong evidence for tolerating these men-girl relationships. . . )

Anonymous said...

No, all I'm saying is better enforcement of statuory rape laws is not the answer to this problem. And yes, my guess is 99% of 19-15 year old relationships are very coercive and bad, but the 1% of them that are truly healthy love relationships should not broken up by some overzealous prosecutor. The cultural diversity was just cited to make the idea of a 15 year old in a relationship with a 19 year old more pallatable. But better enforcement of statutory rape laws is not the answer, or even a qucik fix. It is a cultural problem in our country that has no quick fix. It is a symptom of the ills of alienation and the distribution of wealth - just look at the statistics about the socia-economic status of most teenaged mothers. That is the real issue. And it is not like you to argue for better law enforcement as an answer for serious cultural problems. Is the answer to the drug problem better law enforcement? Of course not. What is the difference then?

Sandra said...

I have to agree with anonymous here. DJW, do you think that when abortion was legal, more vigorous prosecution would have stopped it? I am a liberal who does not like abortion, but wants it to be safe, legal, and RARE. I feel the same way about teen pregnancy.
Think about this: my high school sweetheart would be on a sex offender list right now had he been prosecuted while dating me.

Sandra said...

One more thing to throw out there: let's not blame just the 19 year old here. The girl's mother DROPPED HER OFF at the hospital and went home. Saturday she still hadn't talked to any family. Where's the family responsibility here?

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

Sandra and LK -- you guys are ignoring the dynamics of a man-girl sexual relationship. Men have a lot more power than girls. They are the people that should be chilled by the threat of prosecution for statutory rape. Sure, it's possible that 1% of relationships between a girl and a man are healthy. But 9 out of 10 of them are exploitative. Don't you agree with that? You guys can't just shrug your shoulders and say that there isn't a quick fix, so there's nothing we can do. This girl's life will be demonstrably worse off because of the man impregnating her. And all of us will pay for the baby, as they are certainly far more likely to remain low-income. This is a bad thing. Even if the most egregious men were prosecuted -- someone over the age of 25 having sex with a 15 year old -- that would be a good thing. Why is this different than the drug problem? Because this isn't a victimless crime. Here, the girl is the victim and the man is the perpetrator. That's why girls can't be convicted of statutory rape. Only the men can.

Anonymous said...

D, I'm hardly advocating a shrug of the shoulders. I'm saying let's address the poverty and ignorance. Let's start talking about it. Let's start talking about social and economic justice and the distribution of wealth that is at the source of these problems. Let's not hire more cops or seek penal deterrants for behavior that is primal and difficult to curb without adequate knowledge, self-respect, education and resources. And the victimless nature of the drug problem does not distinuguish the issue of whether increased law enforcement is the answer to problems that stem form poverty, lack of education and alienation.

Sandra said...

DJW- I am certainly not joining the shrugging my shoulders camp, either. I think much more can be done about this at the family level, though, than at the police station. The fifteen year old in question was accompanied by no family at the hospital while she gave birth. I wonder where her family was when she was with the 19 year old.
I certainly understand upholding existing laws. Yes, men who prey on girls should be prosecuted. But applying your bright line rule harshly will not fix this problem, in my opinion.

FightforJustice said...

Enough hair-splitting. Sex criminals should be prosecuted. Most adult men who impregnate girls currently get away with it. That's wrong. As far as poverty excuse, out-of-wedlock birth is rare in the lowest class in India, which has a far lower standard of living than American poor.

Anonymous said...

It isn't poverty per se, quite obviously. It is alienation. If those poor lived in the richest country on Earth and were constantly being bombarded with flase-value structures through a bloated media, then yes, I guarantee they would suffer the same sort of alienation and subconscious self-loathing that the poor here suffer. So you are right, it isnt just poverty, it is the alienation the poor suffer in rich capitalist countries. But you are correct in noting that in countries where God is not yet "dead" in the Nietzschean sense, religion still trumps the inherent alienation of poverty in influencing behavior. Also, in India, I think the average age for marriage among the lower castes is around 14 years old, so your out-of-wedlock argument is worthless. But that is clearly not the case here. Perhaps such argument are a bit too nuanced for the simple minded. Thanks for trying though.

Anonymous said...

Uea., your little counter example is totally misleading as the average age of marriage is around age 15 in India. Does that explain why there is such a low out-of-wedlock birthrate? Or were you,like a typical republican, being deceptive and misleading? Probably the latter. Justice? Hardly.

Girls in tribal societies were given in marriage generally after puberty. According to 1971 census at the national level, the age at marriage for tribal women was higher (16.39) than that of the rural women in general (15.39). The mean age at marriage of the tribal females in Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya,Nagaland,Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Arunachal Pradesh was more than 18 years, the highest being in Nagaland (21.33). On the other hand, it was less than 15 years in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the lowest being in Uttar Pradesh (14.50).

There were a few micro-level studies which dealt with the age at marriage of individual tribes e.g. female age at marriage - Ao Naga (16-20 years), Bbil (16 yrs.), Chenchu after puberty, Khasi (13-18 yrs.), Koli (12-16 yrs.), Bodh (19 yrs.), Gond (18 yrs.), Munda (18 yrs.), Oraon (16 yrs.) (Sinha, 1986). Mean age at marriage of Jaunsads was 12.2 yrs., Dudh Kharias 21.41 yrs., and Santhals 17.87 yrs. (Basu, et al., 1993).

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

OK. . .but we're not dealing with Indian culture and the caste system (can you believe that still exists?). And sure, social workers or some other family-strengthening tools (any ideas?) would be good. But why don't you guys concede that there is a real power dynamic at play, and the man is the bad guy while the girl is the victim? And one way (not the only way, but often an effective way) to stop bad guys is to deter them through the threat of criminal prosecution?

Anonymous said...

Ah, but Dan we are. Mr. Justice guy disingenuously argued that poverty isnt the issuebecasue in the lower castes of India, girls rarely have children out of wedlock. We were talking about teenage pregnancy, but "justice" dismissed the poverty argument by citing births our of wedlock in India, failing to consider that in parts of India the average age for marriage for girls is under 13. And no, I won't concede that it is always a guys fault and that every relationship between a 15 year old girl and a older guy is some necessarily awful thing. They are physically mature and hell, I know plenty of 15 year olds who are far more intelligent, reasonable and savvy than many of the 30 year olds I know. You are being too paternalistic on this one, methinks.

FightforJustice said...

So, Anon, are you suggesting we repeal or roll back the age of sexual consent? What age would make you happy?

Anonymous said...

Yes repeal. No statutory rape. Consent is flexible enough to factor in age already. How about progressive corporate income tax and a 30% cut in defense spending. Lets get out of Iraq too. Lets take that extra money and provide public schools that actually can influence a young person's self-respect and understanding of right and wrong and the consequences of their behavior. That is my answer. Yes, if some sophisticated 16 year oold girl or boy wants to date a 20 year old, sobeit. Who am I to tell them they can't? ANd If I have no right to tell them they can or can't date, then the government sure as hell doesn't either.

Anonymous said...

If there is grass on the playing field... play ball!

FightforJustice said...

If there is no statutory rape, how would you define sexual abuse? The rapist can argue consent, no matter how young the child, right?

Anonymous said...

I think I answered your question ina different post. I never planned in thinking this much about this issue ever, but sure why not. No, obviously the rapist does not get to claim consent, the young person does, and even when he/she does say the sexual interaction was consentual, it would be up to a judge to determine if that person actully had capacity to consent. There would be a presumption against capacity if under 18. The burden would be squarely on the couple to show there is no coercison and the young person is capable of making these decsisions onm their own and actually did so. Any evidence of power disparity, coersion, domination, etc. should be strictly construed against capacity if there is actually consent in the first place. I just want to protect the privacy of some 17 year old and 16 year old who decide they are ready to be sexual. That is all. I'm not arguing here to protect rapists. The government legislating morality is a very scary and serious issue, and even laws like this that most people take for granted becasue 98% of the time their enfocement is consistent with the ends of justice are worthy of scruitny if they can be changes for the better and rid of any absolute liability that could be imposed on perfectly mature and reasonable people for arbitrary reasons.