The news is a labyrinth of shocking stories, but there are some that stand out as horrific. In Warwickshire, England, a couple has been sentenced to prison for using their 12-year-old daughter as a surrogate because the mother was unable to have anymore children of her own.
Backed by the mother's encouragement, the girl's stepfather repeatedly raped her until she became pregnant. She then gave birth to a baby, who was later taken into foster care under court orders.
The girl's mother had met the man online and begun a relationship that Prosecutor Steven Bailey described as leading to an "unhealthy atmosphere" in the home. The man would allegedly abuse the children, and their mother would not defend them.
When the couple decided that they wanted a child together, the mother went to her general practitioner to see about reversing a sterilization procedure she had undergone prior. When the pair was told it was impossible for the mother to bear anymore children, they were not pleased, Bailey said.
"With no regard for the feelings of the girl, let alone the baby they were about to force on her, the plan was for him to have sex with her and get her pregnant as a surrogate," he explained, as reported by The Telegraph. "The girl says her mother told her they wanted her to get pregnant by him, and her mother is on record as describing the pregnancy as a Godsend."
At first, the man denied that he had raped the girl and insisted that the baby had been conceived through artificial insemination using his sperm. That certainly doesn't make things any better, but perhaps he thought this would complicate and, perhaps, alleviate the inevitable rape conviction.
However, on the first day of trial, both the mother and stepfather admitted fully to their actions and pleaded guilty.
Their twisted plan was discovered when their general practitioner became suspicious after confirming the girl was pregnant. The girl also disclosed to a teacher who questioned her about her pregnancy that her stepfather "made me do it," and that her mother had "sacrificed" her in order to have another child. These reports, as well as the girl's confession to a social worker that her stepfather was the father of her baby, led to the police investigating what was becoming a nightmarish case.
Pregnancy is already a phenomenal challenge, and it increases tenfold for children who become pregnant. Unfortunately, child pregnancy is not rare, and for as many cases that are reported there are many more that remain unnoticed and unacknowledged.
There are certainly physical repercussions to having a baby before the body is fully developed, as nourishment needed by the still-growing child is taken by the fetus, and the pelvis of a preteen has not usually widened enough to deliver a baby. The chances of severe bodily trauma during delivery increase exponentially, as well as the likelihood of the birth being fatal to both the child-mother and child.
It goes without saying that there are mental damages as well. In a disturbing 2013 case of child pregnancy, a 10-year-old Columbian girl delivered a baby via C-section. In an interview for the LiveScience article linked above and in reference to the Columbian girl's experience, Lewis Wall, a professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, summarized the obvious truth behind pregnant young girls:
"Any 10-year-old who is pregnant has already been abused significantly by somebody. That should probably go without saying."
The Warwickshire girl's stepfather was charged with two counts of rape by Warwick Crown Court and sentenced to 18 years in prison. The girl's mother pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rape and child cruelty, and was sentenced to six years incarceration.
"He fully accepts what he did to this young girl," said the stepfather's attorney, Amy Jackson. "He says he's sorry for what happened, and that they should not have put her through it."
Nick Devine, the mother's attorney, said that "[s]he only has herself to blame, but she has lost everything in her life as a result."
Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user Amanda Slater