I hope no one missed Slate's cover story Thursday on the "national catastrophe" of "out-of-wedlock births," particularly the illustration that went along with it: A man storms off into the distance and a woman with a baby on her hip resolutely treads in the opposite direction, offering a wave that says, "So long, loser!" The poor child hanging at her side is wide-eyed, as though he's prophesied what his young, self-involved parents could not: his miserable future full of drug-abuse, stints in jail and several bastard children of his own. Because this is what happens to children who are born out of wedlock, doncha know.
Emily Yoffe's article about the boom in unwed births frustrates me to the point that I feel critically dehydrated -- you know, when your limbs go limp and it feels like molasses is running through your veins. She starts by arguing that "two decent people who are committed to each other and find themselves procreating without intending to should provide the stability of marriage for their child." But then she refers to letters she's received as Slate's advice columnist -- letters from single mothers who can't get the father of their child to marry them. These are hardly cases of "two decent people who are committed to each other" -- in the examples she presents, the women are either longing for marriage or are happily embracing an unplanned pregnancy in which the father is absent.
In all her preaching about the "catastrophe" of single motherhood, Yoffe does, to her credit, note that she is not "advising marriage at all costs ... nor do I recommend entering into a union with a clearly unstable, unsuitable partner." Well, good! But what, then, is she suggesting -- that we offer greater support to single parents, or superior sex-ed to prevent unwanted pregnancies?
Ehhn! Wrong. This is where the article becomes truly troubling: Yoffe seems to conclude that we should do a better job of shaming young women who have unprotected sex with men who will not make good fathers. She writes: "Perhaps in our desire not to make moral judgments about personal choices, young women wholly unprepared to be mothers are not getting the message that there are dire consequences of having (unprotected) sex with guys too lame to be fathers." That's why safe-sex practices haven't taken hold with teens girls and 20-something women -- for lack of moral judgment on the part of society! And here I thought that was something we had in spades.