1. A Child-Averse Culture?
By Bryce J. Christensen and William C. Duncan
During his recent trip to China, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden remarked of that nation’s infamous one-child policy:
What we ended up doing is setting up a system whereby we did cut by $1.2 trillion upfront, the deficit over the next 10 years. And we set up a group of senators that have to come up with another $1.2 to $1.7 trillion in savings or automatically there will be cuts that go into effect in January to get those savings. So the savings will be accomplished. But as I was talking to some of your leaders, you share a similar concern here in China. You have no safety net. Your policy has been one which I fully understand – I’m not second-guessing – of one child per family. The result being that you’re in a position where one wage earner will be taking care of four retired people. Not sustainable.
So hopefully we can act in a way on a problem that’s much less severe than yours, and maybe we can learn together from how we can do that.1
This seeming sympathy for a brutal program of coercion meant to reduce the number of children in China by any means necessary was widely denounced. Any charitable interpretation of the remarks would have to assume the vice president really did not mean to endorse forced abortions and sterilizations and the other coercive methods used to enforce the policy.
Even granting this, the substance of the vice president’s remarks is deeply troubling. It has been remarked that a gaffe among the Washington, D.C., crowd may merely be the revelation of what the speaker is really thinking. Here, however, the statement itself (even if it did not unintentionally endorse brutality) tells us much about the attitudes toward children among much of the cultural elite. 2
A pro-life activist recently wrote to leaders of Protestant denominations to warn of a “spirit of child aversion.”3 This spirit threatens to become pervasive among political leaders of our nation.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued new regulations regarding health care. One of the new regulations mandates coverage of contraception without co-pays by all healthcare plans.4 It would not take long to make a list of lifesaving treatments not given this favorable treatment. A family could, under this regulation, have free contraception (not entirely free since the managers of the health plan will increase other costs to compensate) but have to pay a co-payment for insulin for a child with diabetes.
The other new regulation purports to mandate coverage of preventive services but includes prenatal testing for “genetic or developmental conditions” which, of course, cannot prevent the condition – only the birth of a child with the condition. A father of a daughter named Juliet, who has Down syndrome, notes:
The IOM report defines preventive services “to be measures . . . shown to improve wellbeing, and/or decrease the likelihood or delay the onset of targeted disease or condition.” Down syndrome occurs at conception. Prenatal testing simply identifies whether a pregnancy is positive for Down syndrome – a prenatal diagnosis after which most women choose to terminate their pregnancy. A prenatal test does not decrease the likelihood of Down syndrome in a person; it does allow for a decreased likelihood of a person with Down syndrome surviving beyond the womb. If this is how HHS is justifying prenatal testing for Down syndrome as preventive care, then HHS has ushered in a program meant to target future children like Juliet.5
The epidemic of family disintegration winked at and even favored by political elites in our country similarly reflects a child-averse culture. It is absolutely clear that family breakdown harms children. A recent news article shows that this is true in a way that has not been previously noted.
A few pro-life commentators have noted a distressing correlation between unstable family forms and abortion in a recent report of the research wing of Planned Parenthood. As the headline of David Schmidt’s report at the Live Action website explains: “Unintended pregnancy results in abortion 60% of the time when father doesn’t live with unborn child’s mother.”6
The percentage of unintended pregnancies resulting in abortions among couples who are cohabiting is also high at 39 percent. For married couples it is 22 percent.7 The abortion rate by family status is 59.3 per 1,000 women (age 15-44) in cohabiting relationships, 31.8 per 1,000 women who are divorced and not cohabiting, 28.1 per 1,000 women who never married and are not cohabiting and 7.7 per 1,000 women who are currently married.8
John Jalsevac speculates on the connection: “In the case of less stable relationships, however, when an unintended pregnancy occurs, the man and the woman are more likely to want to ‘get rid of the problem,’ ‘just in case’ the relationship breaks down in the future.”9 Whatever the reason, it is terribly clear that the “alternative families” so favored in recent legal changes endorsed by the lifestyle left are anything but welcoming to children.
Utah is not totally immune from the notion that children are a burden. We are far from the coercive policies of other nations and states, of course. There is, however, news that politicians in the state are floating a proposal to raise money that could be poured into the public schooling system. The money would come by increasing the tax on parents through “ending state income tax exemptions for dependents.”10 The rationale for the dependent exemption is that all of society benefits when we have strong families with children who provide the future in concrete ways (providing for the retirement of others who may or may not have children of their own) and subtle ways (we all have to live together and will benefit if our fellow citizens in future generations are civilized and capable).
Surely these politicians do not want fewer children, but they may very well be making more difficult the job of those who must provide for the children who live in Utah.
Against this spirit of child aversion, which defines children as a burden to be ameliorated or, more tragically, eliminated, stands a more ancient tradition. From the psalmist: “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.”11 Utah must continue to emphasize and protect its distinctiveness as a state that welcomes children and child-rich families.
Bryce J. Christensen, Ph.D., is associate professor of English at Southern Utah University and adjunct fellow of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society. He is a contributing editor to The Family in America and author of Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America (Transaction, 2005). He has also published articles on family issues in Society, The Public Interest, Policy Review, Modern Age, and other journals.
William C. Duncan, J.D., is director of the Marriage Law Foundation and is the director of Sutherland Institute’s Center for Family and Society. He formerly served as acting director of the Marriage Law Project at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and as executive director of the Marriage and Family Law Research Grant at J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, where he was also a visiting professor.
1. Quoted in Mark Hemingway, “Joe Biden: ‘I Fully Understand’ China’s One Child Policy,” Weekly Standard, August 22, 2011, at http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/joe-biden-i-fully-understand-chinas-one-child-policy_590513.html.
2. Ironically, the concern that led Mr. Biden to make his deservedly maligned comment is completely wrong. Whatever the demographics of individual nations, the world is experiencing a sustained birth dearth, leading to very real concerns that the populations currently of the “developed” nations and eventually all over the world will be unable to replace themselves. Mr. Biden noted one element of that problem when he pointed out that a dwindling population may mean current retirees won’t have the financial support of a new generation.
3. Patrick B. Craine, “Protestant Life Chain Founder Begs Pastors to Denounce Contribution,” Life Site News September 8, 2011, at http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/protestant-life-chain-founder-begs-pastors-to-denounce-contraception.
4. Robert Pear, “Insurance Coverage for Contraception is Required,” New York Times, August 2, 2011, p. A10, at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/health/policy/02health.html?_r=1&emc=tnt&tntemail0=y.
5. Mark W. Leach, “Targeting Down Syndrome by Regulation,” Public Discourse, September 6, 2011, at http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/09/3844.
6. David Schmidt, “Unintended Pregnancy Results in Abortion 60% of the Time When Father Doesn’t Live with Unborn Child’s Mother,” Live Action, September 11, 2011, athttp://liveaction.org/blog/unintended-pregnancy-results-in-abortion-60-of-the-time-when-father-doesnt-live-with-unborn-childs-mother/?utm_content=sf2172288&utm_medium=spredfast&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=Live+Action+Corporate&sf2172288=1.
8. John Jalvesac, “Holy Smoke: Check Out the Disparity in Abortion Rate Between Cohabiting and Married Couples,” Life Site News, September 7, 2011, athttp://www.lifesitenews.com/blog/holy-smoke-check-out-the-disparity-in-abortion-rate-between-cohabiting-and.
10. Lisa Schenker, “Utah Lawmaker: Help Schools, End Tax Breaks for Dependents,” Salt Lake Tribune, August 5, 2011, at http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/52335798-78/jones-schools-tax-education.html.csp.
11. Psalms 127:5 (KJV).
2. Sutherland to Host an Evening with Dr. Mark Skousen
On Tuesday evening, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m., Sutherland Institute will be pleased to host Dr. Mark Skousen as he presents
“The Latest Crisis Won’t Be the Last:
Reflections on 30 Years on Wall Street”
Dr. Skousen will analyze the current economic crisis based on his 30 years of experience in the financial world living through booms and busts, inflation and deflation, and bull and bear markets. He will share insights about how to resolve the debt crises in Europe and the United States, and his outlook for the global economy. (Read his biography.)
This evening session will be held in the Sutherland Conference Room at the Institute’s offices in the Crane Building, 307 West 200 South, Suite 5005, in downtown Salt Lake City. Convenient parking will be available in the visitor lot surrounding the building.
We invite you and your friends and associates to enjoy this event free of charge. We request the courtesy of an RSVP by sending an email to Lisa Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 801-355-1272.
3. Forging Consensus on Immigrants in Mountain West
Leaders from business, law enforcement, faith and government plan to meet Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the City Center Marriott in Salt Lake City to discuss the importance of immigration and immigrants in the Mountain West. Participants will come from Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah to develop a common understanding of the issues. Speakers will include Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and the Most Rev. John C. Wester.
4. Brazilians Put Brakes on Babies
By Pamela Whitmore
September’s issue of National Geographic included a feature on “Brazil’s Girl Power,” detailing how Brazil’s fertility rate has slid from 6.3 children per women in 1960 to 1.9 in 2009 – a lightning-quick change in the world of demographics:
That new Brazilian fertility rate is below the level at which a population replaces itself. It is lower than the two-children-per-woman fertility rate in the United States. In the largest nation in Latin America – a 191-million-person country where the Roman Catholic Church dominates, abortion is illegal (except in rare cases), and no official government policy has ever promoted birth control – family size has dropped so sharply and so insistently over the past five decades that the fertility rate graph looks like a playground slide.
5. Halt Government Funding to Planned Parenthood in Utah?
By Alexis Young
As we wrote on Aug. 30, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah receives an average of $152,050.07 each year in state and federal funds. Representative Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman) plans to propose legislation that would restrict Planned Parenthood’s access to government money.
We interviewed Wimmer and Karrie Galloway, CEO of Planned Parenthood in Utah, to hear their perspectives on the proposal. Watch this video …
Click here to read more of this post and watch the video on the Sutherland Daily blog.