Monday, May 10, 2010

Behind Those High Divorce Rates and High Out-of-Wedlock Birth Rates

For years, liberals have crowed about the stable marriages and low out-of-wedlock birth rates of blue states, but as Ross Douthat notes, there's nothing for blue staters to be proud of in their low out-of-wedlock birth rate numbers. That's because their high abortion rates mask that number.

More important, Cahn and Carbone also acknowledge one of the more polarizing aspects of the “blue family” model. Conservative states may have more teen births and more divorces, but liberal states have many more abortions.

Liberals sometimes argue that their preferred approach to family life reduces the need for abortion. In reality, it may depend on abortion to succeed. The teen pregnancy rate in blue Connecticut, for instance, is roughly identical to the teen pregnancy rate in red Montana. But in Connecticut, those pregnancies are half as likely to be carried to term. Over all, the abortion rate is twice as high in New York as in Texas and three times as high in Massachusetts as in Utah.

So it isn’t just contraception that delays childbearing in liberal states, and it isn’t just a foolish devotion to abstinence education that leads to teen births and hasty marriages in conservative America. It’s also a matter of how plausible an option abortion seems, both morally and practically, depending on who and where you are.

If, as Douthat says, the red state model looks dysfunctional in a modern society, it's possibly because it values life above creature comfort and death. That's something blue staters won't want to talk about. Or maybe they will, since they don't typically consider abortion to be something shameful or to be avoided.