Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Moral suasion directed at teen moms


I posted below about an NYC ad campaign shaming teen moms. James Taranto writes in the WSJ:
At issue is a subway ad campaign by the New York City Department of Social Services. It features photos of grumpy-looking infants (carefully chosen for racial diversity), captioned by messages to their putative parents, written in a toddler-like scrawl. Examples: "Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years." "Honestly Mom . . . chances are he won't stay with you. What happens to me?" "If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% chance of not being in poverty." Viewers of the ad are invited to "text 'NOTNOW' to 877877 for the real cost of teen pregnancy."

"The campaign pulls no punches," writes Goff, though in fact it pulls a very large punch by defining the problem as "teen pregnancy" rather than illegitimate childbearing. If an 18-year-old woman marries and has a child, that's almost certainly better for society, and for the child, than if she waits until she's 20 and gives birth out of wedlock. ...

Planned Parenthood may describe itself as a "health organization," but in reality it is an ideological outfit. It is committed to the idea of "reproductive rights" that belong only to women. In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, for instance, the group persuaded the Supreme Court that a married woman has a constitutional right to abort her husband's child without telling him.
This last point is important. Not only did Planned Parenthood v. Casey uphold the constitutional right to aborion under Roe v Wade, it also said that a pregnant wife also has a constitutional right to avoid telling her husband about it.

This last point is widely misunderstood, even by the author of the opinion. Here is a recent NPR Radio Fresh Air interview (download audio here):
GROSS: In Casey versus Planned Parenthood, which was a decision in Pennsylvania about a state's right to add restrictions on access to abortion, you had harsh words for Judge Alito. This was before he was a Supreme Court justice, but he had written part of the decision in Casey. In his decision he upheld a certain restriction, which was that a woman had to seek her husband's approval before getting an abortion. A wife had to seek her husband's approval. And in your decision in the Supreme Court overturning that aspect of the decision you called that view repugnant to our present understanding of marriage and to the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution. Women do not lose their constitutionally-protected liberty when they marry. Can you elaborate on that at all?

O'CONNOR: No. I don't think I'll try.

GROSS: OK.

O'CONNOR: That's very sensitive and I did the best I could in that decision and I'll leave it there.

GROSS: Paradoxically, it was Samuel Alito who replaced you as a Supreme Court justice when you retired. Did that seem especially ironic to you?

O'CONNOR: Well, I didn't put the two and two together and tell myself that's ironic. I mean it didn't matter what I thought anyway. It wasn't my decision. The court - time moves on and we had new appointments.

GROSS: My guest is Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She has a new book called "Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court."
No, Judge Alito only voted to uphold a requirement for spousal notification, not permission. O'Connor is unwilling to defend her radical anti-family opinion.

Whether you agree with abortion or not, this was one of a series of anti-marriage and anti-father decisions coming out of the US Supreme Court.

O'Connor wrote in Casey to justify wives not telling their husbands about getting an abortion:
There was a time, not so long ago, when a different understanding of the family and of the Constitution prevailed. ...

In keeping with our rejection of the common law understanding of a woman's role within the family, the Court held in Danforth that the Constitution does not permit a State to require a married woman to obtain her husband's consent before undergoing an abortion. ...

The husband's interest in the life of the child his wife is carrying does not permit the State to empower him with this troubling degree of authority over his wife. The contrary view leads to consequences reminiscent of the common law. A husband has no enforceable right to require a wife to advise him before she exercises her personal choices. ...

Section 3209 embodies a view of marriage consonant with the common law status of married women, but repugnant to our present understanding of marriage and of the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution. Women do not lose their constitutionally protected liberty when they marry. The Constitution protects all individuals, male or female, married or unmarried, from the abuse of governmental power, even where that power is employed for the supposed benefit of a member of the individual's family. These considerations confirm our conclusion that 3209 is invalid.
When a man marries a woman, he expects certain things. If we are going to have a civil marriage, then some of those expectations ought to be enforceable under the law.

Apparently, being notified about the deliberate abortion of their unborn child is not one of those expectations. Not anymore. The US Supreme Court says that such an expectation has become "repugnant to our present understanding of marriage and of the nature of the rights secured by the Constitution."

While the above NYC ad campaign is a step in the right direction, Taranto goes on to explain why it fails to get to the heart of the problem:
The ad campaign's focus on "teen pregnancy" rather than illegitimacy illustrates a class bias. The two may seem more or less interchangeable inasmuch as the idea of marrying and starting a family at 18 is today virtually unthinkable within the educated class. Today's privileged woman is expected to follow a life script in which high school is followed by college and a career. In that script, a period of sexual and romantic experimentation begins in college or before (made possible thanks to contraception, with abortion available as a Plan C), and marriage and children are expected to wait until after she is established in her career.

The "98%" poster alludes to that life script and makes the dubious supposition that following it -- at least if one leaves out college -- is realistic for all women. But an important reason women bear children out of wedlock is because they don't expect to find husbands. ...

As this column has repeatedly noted, women are hypergamous, which means that their instinct is to be attracted to men of higher status than themselves. When the societywide status of women increases relative to men, the effect is to diminish the pool of suitable men for any given woman. If most women reject most men as not good enough for them, the effect is no different from that of a low sex ratio. High-status men, being in short supply, set the terms of relationships, resulting in libertine sexual mores and higher illegitimacy.

Suppose Bloomberg's ad campaign is successful at inducing a large number of lower-class teenage women to stay in school, pursue careers, and forgo childbearing until marriage. If they succeed in school and work, they will find their marital prospects further limited by competition from other successful women. The problem of illegitimacy isn't soluble through moral suasion. The sexual and feminist revolutions are so deeply embedded in American culture and law that it may not be tractable at all.
Taranto is correct that moral persuasion will not solve our social problems. Feminism, human nature, and the American family are on a collision course. Except for this NYC ad campaign, our leaders are encouraging single moms and telling them that even the simplest marital responsilities are "repugnant to our present understanding of marriage".

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