Sexist Purity Culture is Not Pro-Life

madeline runkles
Madeline Runkles

Some of you may have heard of this story out of Hagerstown, Maryland. A girl at a conservative Christian high school became pregnant and, being a good evangelical kid, she decided to keep the baby. Today in the Washington Post, she describes what happened next:

I was not allowed to attend school as my principal and the board decided if I would be allowed to return at all, and I would be stripped of all leadership positions. I wasn’t allowed to attend sports games to watch my brother play basketball or baseball, and I wouldn’t be allowed on campus until after the baby was born. I would be allowed to receive my diploma, but I would have to take all my classes at home, and wouldn’t be allowed to walk at graduation.

This felt overly harsh to me and my parents, so my dad asked the principal and the board to reconsider. He argued that the only difference between me and other seniors who had broken the school’s moral code in various ways was that I was pregnant, and they were trying to hide me away because they were embarrassed by my visible sin. My principal and the board finally changed their decision: I would be allowed back to finish the year with my classmates, but I couldn’t be in any leadership positions in school clubs, and I still couldn’t walk at graduation.

In the meantime, I assume all the senior boys who have been violating the school covenant by looking at pornography are now marked with scarlet letters and will not be allowed to walk at graduation either. What’s that, they are walking? Hmmm.

Runkles concludes:

When girls like me who go to pro-life schools make a brave pro-life decision, we shouldn’t be hidden away in shame. The sin that got us into this situation is not worth celebrating, but after confession and forgiveness take place, we should be supported and treated like any other student. What we are going through is tough enough. Having to deal with the added shame of being treated like an outcast is nothing that any girl should have to go through.

Many of the people in my town and at my school who had supported me and my family have turned on us since I went public, feeling that all the scrutiny was hurting Heritage Academy’s reputation. We started getting nasty emails, angry posts on social media and rude remarks in person. People who had been supportive before are now telling me to shut up, suck it up and grow up. Because of the volume of anger from the community, my parents have decided to keep my brother and me at home for the rest of the school year.

I’m still not allowed to walk at graduation this month, but I still wouldn’t change my decision to keep my baby — a boy, who I want to name Greyson. Even though it’s been hard losing support in my town, even though my school has drawn out my punishment over months, I want other girls in my position to know you don’t have to give in to pressure or fear of judgment.

Amen to that.

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