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Jewish World Review May 26, 2000 /21 Iyar, 5760

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Consumer Reports


Illegitimacy's effects reach far and wide -- RECENTLY, I was a guest on the "Fox News Sunday" show, along with Sen. Pat Moynihan, Democrat from New York. It's his seat that Hillary Clinton and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani are running for, as Moynihan is retiring.

He asked me what I was going to be speaking about. I said, "Parenting and the family."

Then he said, "Are you going to talk about illegitimacy? It's the most serious problem we have today -- not just in America, but in England, France, everywhere."

I assured him that I had a lot to say on that topic and that my new book took women to task for having babies out of wedlock and society, too, for celebrating and honoring single motherhood by choice.

Illegitimacy is rising, according to the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics. In 1998, "the number of births to unmarried women rose 3 percent to 1,293,567, the highest number ever reported." This represents one in every three births.

Two recent guest commentaries in the National Review Online underscore illegitimacy's horrendous impact on children and society. Ironically, a guest commentary by Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute, titled "Fatherlessness: The Root Cause," includes a quote from something Moynihan wrote 35 years ago: "From the wild Irish slums of the 19th-century Eastern seaboard to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history. A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring a stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future -- that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure -- these are not only to be expected, they are virtually inevitable."

In studies referenced by Kopel, 70 percent of juvenile murderers did not live with both parents; 93 percent of girls remanded to the custody of the California Youth Authority came from nonintact homes, and nationally 70 percent of youth incarcerated in state reform institutions came from single-parent or no-parent homes.

Kopel quotes a counselor from the California Youth Authority as saying: "You find a gang member who comes from a complete nuclear family, a kid who has never been exposed to any kind of abuse, I'd like to meet him. A real gang-banger who comes from a happy, balanced home, who's got a good opinion of himself, I don't think that kid exists."

Now, obviously, not every child of a single-by-choice mother becomes a juvenile delinquent. But the statistics are alarming in terms of risk factors facing a child born out of wedlock. Whereas Sen. Moynihan and Dave Kopel focus on the resulting societal chaos, my concern is even more with the child.

Children have a God-given right to be raised by a mom and a dad who are married and committed to fulfilling their obligations to the family. That has been the optimal environment for the rearing of children for thousands of years. Today, however, even to state this self-evident and obvious fact subjects one to charges of discrimination and intolerance.

A 30-year-old woman who attends night classes at a local college wrote me that she handed in a paper entitled "The Decay of Parenthood in our Society." She chose the topic because she wanted to spread my "message about morals, values and ethics in parenting to all of the single parents (actually children with children) with whom I attend school."

Although the professor gave her an "A," her classmates gave her a lot of grief because she had "no right to say that children need two parents." One girl told her, "I'm doing just fine on my own. Who needs a husband?"

Well, maybe she doesn't need a husband, but it's axiomatic that a kid needs a dad.

However, I wasn't surprised by this reaction. I was a guest on several other TV shows last week to talk about my book, "Parenthood by Proxy: Don't Have Them If You Won't Raise Them," and my position on the undesirability of one-parent homes was also met with a fair amount of hostility. One after another, TV interviewers suggested that I was being "unfair" and "judgmental." Their concern was always for the adult's situation, the adult's feelings, the adult's right to have a child. Not one of them considered the child's situation, feelings or rights to a stable home with a mom and a dad. And that's my main message in this book: that the needs and rights of children are being sacrificed on the altar of adults' selfish, self-centered desires.

In addition to juvenile delinquency, one other unfortunate corollary with single-parent homes is poverty. In a separate article, Roger Clegg writes that professor William Galston pointed out that you need to do only three things to avoid poverty in America: Finish high school, marry before having a child, and produce the child after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of children from families who do these three things are poor.

Certainly those who elect to put their own children at this kind of risk are fully responsible for their actions. But the nonjudgmental, terminally tolerant, morally bankrupt society that celebrates them must share the guilt and shame.

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© 2000, Dr. Laura Schlessinger. This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of Universal New Media and Universal Press Syndicate.