What to do? Well, when we compare out-of-wedlock births by state, those with higher incomes and education levels show lower rates. Some observers, as you might imagine, infer that this statistic suggests a socioeconomic problem that can be solved by helping more teens stay in school so that they can go on to college and higher-paying jobs. But wait: It's not quite so elementary, my dear Watson.
Let's look more closely at the situation. While red states do indeed have more out-of-wedlock babies, the blue states have—perhaps you've already guessed it—more abortions. In fact, pregnancy rates do not diff er all that much; it's abortion rates that do. As compiled by the Guttmacher Institute (using 2005 statistics, the most recent available), the abortion rate is 6 percent in Mississippi and Utah and 9 percent in Arkansas. But it's 24 percent in Connecticut, 30 percent in New Jersey, and 33 percent in New York. Shockingly, the nation as a whole aborts about 1.2 million babies each year. So no matter what you may have read or heard elsewhere (perhaps from abortion activists), higher education and income levels are not stopping young women from getting pregnant: Th ey're just turning to a different "solution." Of course, my view is that abortion, rather than actually providing a solution, is instead an even more awful problem.
So while we should be disturbed by the huge number of out-ofwedlock births, we should be even more disturbed that abortions are so common. As hard as it can be to grow up without a dad, there's a far worse fate: not growing up at all because one's life was snuff ed out in the womb.
Abstinence for Kids Is the True Freedom
It is clear to me that these two epidemics - out-of-wedlock births and on-demand abortions - are sapping America's moral strength. We have two challenges. On the one hand, we need to reduce the number of pregnancies that so often lead to sad, unstable homes and eventual divorce (assuming that marriage ever had any role to play in the situation in the fi rst place). On the other, the answer to the likelihood that children will grow up in a fatherless home is not to abort them. Th e strong families this country needs are always built on two shared societal beliefs: the value of marriage and the value of human life.
"Grief still treads upon the heels of pleasure," wrote English playwright William Congreve in 1693. "Married in haste, we repent at leisure." That's certainly still true all these years later, as many young people pressured to marry in response to an unplanned pregnancy will attest. But even those who decide not to marry may eventually have reason to "repent," because the other choices can be equally dismal. As a pastor, I often saw women who suffered wrenching guilt and/or depression after having an abortion or giving a baby up for adoption. I believe these women will feel their loss and anguish for the rest of their lives. As for single mothers, they typically have to interrupt their education, entrust their children to the care of strangers, and marginally support their households on a meager income. (It's then, of course, that the kindly federal government steps in to "help.")