Bryan Fischer
Catastrophe: Out-of-wedlock births up to 40%
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By Bryan Fischer
March 19, 2009

An alarming 39.7 percent of babies born in 2007, the latest year for which statistics are available, were born to unmarried women, and the trend lines are terrible. This represents a 21 percent increase since 2002.

In my home state of Idaho, the rate of nonmarital births is lower than the national average, at 25.5%. But that's 25.5% too high, and the trend is worrisome: the rate is up a full percentage point from the 24.3% figure in 2006.

More than 9% of Idaho births are to teenage moms, below the national average of 10.5%, but this too represents a disturbing trend as the rate was below 9% in 2006.

This is particularly significant because an even higher percentage of teenage moms are unmarried than in the general population. Although the data is not broken down by individual states, nationwide 85.7% of all teenage birth moms are unmarried.

Although critics try to blame abstinence education for the increase in teenage single mom births, that's ridiculous. I dare you to find one solitary sexually active teen who does not know about condoms. They know about "prevention," but in their immaturity teens don't use it, or in the case of many young women, actually want to get pregnant and have a baby with a boyfriend rather than husband, inspired by the glamorization of young single motherhood by a fawning media.

It's hard to overestimate the corrosive effect this trend is having right now and will continue to have on our culture, and the imperative need it indicates for state legislatures, including Idaho's, to strengthen marriage through public policy changes.

Several worrisome cultural shifts are a part of this. One is the increasingly casual attitude toward nonmarital sex, fostered by "comprehensive" sex ed instructors, who give lip service to abstinence but spend the bulk of their time tacitly encouraging sexual activity and experimentation, and by virtually every TV show and movie that comes out of Hollywood.

We are also now reaping the full and bitter fruit of the advent of no-fault divorce, which has been adopted in 49 states, Idaho included. This has made it possible for one disaffected spouse to shatter a marriage and family, and has left the legally innocent victim with no recourse and no protection.

Divorce is the only legal arrangement in law in which we guarantee victory to the individual who wants to break a covenantal contract.

Once unilateral no-fault divorce was enacted, the divorce rate shot up immediately in state after state. Within a matter of years, Idaho's divorce rate jumped 50% after no-fault was adopted here in 1970, and remains almost 50% higher than the national average.

This produces an additional corrosive effect: couples see marriages breaking up all around them, which tends to lead them to develop an expectation that intimate relationships are eventually doomed to fail. Thus, they argue, why should I opt for marriage when divorce is messy and I have virtually no protection anyway if my spouse wants to leave?

The inherent instability this has created in the institution of marriage itself has weakened it and made it less attractive to dating couples.

This in turn has caused an alarming rise in the rate of co-habitation, which is bad for everyone involved. It's bad for adult partners, as the rate of both poverty and domestic violence is significantly higher than in married homes.

It's bad for children, as the rate of physical and sexual abuse is much higher in co-habiting households. It causes children to grow up in increasingly unstable environments, which in turn does tremendous and irreversible damage to their vulnerable psyches.

Plus, the single most dangerous environment for a young child is in a home with an adult to whom he is not biologically related, an increasingly common occurrence as adults with children hop around from one bed and breakfast to another, dragging wounded children along behind them.

So far, legislatures are fiddling while Rome burns.

We should do at least two things: first, modify no-fault divorce so that it requires the consent of both parties if there are children under the age of 18 involved. It's easier to get out of a marriage than a car lease, and yet breaking a car lease does no damage to young children. Divorce, on the other hand, shatters their world and leaves a life-long bootprint on their souls.

And second, we should review current policies to make sure that we have no marriage penalties in our tax code. Beyond that, we should create tax incentives that encourage couples to get married and to stay married.

Human nature is such that we always get more of what we reward and less of what we punish, and so we ought to make sure our public policy favors marriage over co-habitation and has tangible and clear benefits for couples who marry.

U.S. teen birth rate up again, fewer pre-term babies | U.S. | Reuters

Centers for Disease Control: Births: Preliminary Data for 2007

© Bryan Fischer

 

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