shadows of a young child and mother

Is Planned Unwed Parenthood a Good Idea?

This week Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus to a “single mom.” Of course, in that culture, that was a scandal, but now in America we are seeing a rise in the number of unmarried women having babies, and it is not all the result of unplanned, crisis pregnancies. The implications of it need to be thought about in our state.

The fact of the matter is that increasingly the pregnancies we need to think about are those where there is no intention to provide a child with a relationship to one of his or her biological parents. Single women go to sperm banks to “get” a father for their baby, or perhaps I should say a “genetic contributor” to their baby. This may satisfy the urges or “needs” of the adult, but what about the child? Does the child have any rights?

So while I take a “break” for Christmas, let me share the excellent thoughts of my friend, John Stonestreet, with the Colson Center and author of a recent “Breakpoint” commentary on this subject:


Writing in The Atlantic recently, David Frum acknowledges that the abortion rate has come down, and that most Americans now consider themselves to be pro-life. But the magazine’s senior editor manages to find a dark lining in this silver cloud. “Abortion rates are coming down,” he writes, “mostly because the number of unmarried women having babies is going up.”

“This is the fascinating irony of the pro-life movement,” he continues. “The cause originated as a profoundly socially conservative movement. Yet as it grew, it became less sectarian. Women came to the fore as leaders. It found a new language of concern and compassion, rather than condemnation and control. Most radically and decisively, the movement made its peace with unwed parenthood as the inescapable real-world alternative to abortion.”

Well, we have indeed figured out how to frame the issue as one of compassion for mothers and their children. And though allowing a child to live is always more compassionate than abortion, I haven’t made peace with unwed parenthood—at least not in the sense that Frum uses the term—and neither have any of the pro-life leaders that I know.

That’s because we believe that children not only have a right to life; they also have the right to a mom and a dad. Even more, we’d argue they have a right to a married mom and dad. All the social science agrees. As my friend Ryan Anderson and his colleague at the Heritage Foundation, Sarah Torre, recently wrote in The National Review Online, “The best place on average for a child to grow up is with his married biological mom and dad. …[This brings] greater academic success, lower rates of substance abuse, and a significantly decreased risk of childhood poverty.” Yes, kids have a right to a married mother and father.

Now before I go on, let me be clear: Of course we pro-lifers encourage unwed mothers to have their children instead of abort them. This is no great revelation, is it? The right to life is paramount. And churches should do everything to support single mothers, and provide options such as adoption whenever appropriate. As Anderson and Torre write, “It’s far better to allow a child to live, even in less than ideal circumstances, than to kill her simply because she’s inconvenient or might experience hardship.”

And then they clarify why single parenthood is increasing, and it’s not because pro-lifers have “made their peace” with single parenthood. Instead, a whole host of interlocking factors has led to this trend: “A sexual revolution that decoupled sex from marriage, the sustained desire by low-income women to have children (outside even a committed relationship), the crisis of employed law-abiding blue-collar young men, and an ever-growing welfare state that rewards single parenthood and penalizes marriage have all contributed to the rise in unwed childbearing.”

But, they continue, if we can launch campaigns against teen pregnancy—and we have—then we ought to be able to address unwed parenthood, too. They quote welfare expert Robert Rector, who notes, “Young people in low-income communities are never told that having a child outside of marriage will have negative consequences. … or that marriage has beneficial effects.”

So let’s tell them, for heaven’s sake—and for theirs!

And what has driven down the abortion rate? Anderson and Torre point to the establishment of more than 2,000 pregnancy centers nationwide that provide counseling and medical services to women facing unplanned pregnancies, the availability of ultrasounds (which demonstrate the humanity of the unborn), and to legislation that protects women and their unborn children. They quote University of Michigan professor Michael New, who says a “substantial body of peer-reviewed research…finds that public funding restrictions, parental involvement laws, and properly designed informed consent laws all reduce the incidence of abortion.”

But there’s certainly no reason we have to choose between fighting abortion and promoting marriage. Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll point you to pro-life and pro-family organizations.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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gavel and doctor with stethoscope

Medicaid Expansion: Two Issues Legislators Should Consider

This week the Governor put the question of expanding the traditional Medicaid program squarely on the table for our legislators to debate next month. He is asking for a special session of the legislature to focus on this one issue. I applaud the heart behind his proposal, but as we apply our heads to it, I’d like to suggest we debate some things beyond just the elements of the proposal itself.

The proposal, as I understand it, is an attempt to provide health insurance coverage to what we might call the “working poor.” While we can debate the difference between absolute and relative poverty, at least we are not talking about something that’s purely a “hand out.”

Those who would be covered would be earning some income, so they are in the workforce. And the proposal would try to put those to whom it would apply into the private sector insurance market and require some element of co-pays for services. Those elements are commendable.

It is also commendable that Gov. Haslam has a heart for those who are economically challenged and may struggle with affording some basic level of health care. It is “morally right,” to use an expression the Governor used, to care about the well-being of our fellow citizens.

But if all the legislature debates is whether it is “morally right” to care for our fellow citizens and the “mechanics” of the proposal, it will miss the opportunity to have a much-needed debate at a much deeper level than we’ve had in our state and nation in a long time. Let me suggest just two fundamental matters that should be debated.

The first major issue we’ve ignored since the New Deal, if not before, is to whom the moral duty to care for our neighbor falls in a civil society made up of individuals, families, private associations, and civil government. Historically, we have said it was the moral responsibility of individuals, families, and private associations.

For instance, years ago, in my hometown of Chattanooga, individuals and their families who saw a need to care for those with physical and mental challenges came together and out of their own resources established two wonderful institutions that still exist, Siskin Hospital and Orange Grove. You may know of such organizations in your own community.

If we stop to think about it, care for the poor is essentially an act of either mercy or grace. Civil government is an instrument of law. Are we willing to debate whether an instrument of law can be an effective instrument of mercy or grace without eventually destroying both law and mercy and grace?

Under the guise of grace and mercy, law can become an instrument of injustice by taking from some to give to others. Respect for the law is lost and then law becomes an instrument of plunder, not protection. Of course, taking from some to give to others might help the other person in the short run, but it will not make the person from whom money is taken gracious or merciful. In fact, it might just make them resentful and more callous toward the poor, hurting them in the long run.

Lastly, even if we are not willing to reopen debate on this issue, there is the issue of debt. If we’re going to talk about what is morally right, then we must talk about the fact that our federal government is printing and borrowing money it doesn’t really have to pay for this expansion.

So the question for debate is whether it is morally right for our state to be part of expanding a federal debt. In asking this question, I’m thinking of two things Solomon said. First, that a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children (Proverbs 13:22), and second that the borrower is the slave of the lender (Proverbs 22:7).

We will leave an inheritance to our children’s children; the only question in this regard is whether it is morally right to leave them an inheritance of even greater debt with its corresponding loss of freedom.

There are other issues that come to mind, but if our legislators will take up just these two issues, we will be better served. It might even make a special session really special.

Related Video:

David Fowler Explains the Future of Medicaid Expansion


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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two red globe ornaments

Joy to the World? Not So Much in America Right Now

I stood at the back of the state House Republican Caucus meeting on Wednesday and joined in a fairly rousing rendition of “Joy to the World” while votes for a leadership position were being tabulated. Then I read a story in USA Today this morning that was the perfect juxtaposition to Wednesday’s choral activity.

The story was about an end-of-the-year poll on the mood of Americans. It led off with this not very joyful statement:

“The stock market has been booming and jobs growing, but Americans are facing the new year with the most downcast expectations in nearly a quarter-century—a disconnect that reflects prosperity’s limited reach and assessments that Washington’s dysfunction isn’t going to get better any time soon.”

Apparently, Americans could use a little “joy to the world” right now.

I would suggest that the angels who trumpeted the message of joy to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth and the hymn writer who was inspired by that message understood something we still don’t get.

When Jesus was born, the world was in a mess, as it had been for thousands of years. It was in need of a Savior.

Americans seem to know that we need a “savior.” In November 2008, a potential savior came along with a message of “hope and change.” We got lots of change, but apparently not much hope. Yet we did get one thing right: we understood our need for a new, different kind of leader.

And the need for and long-awaited arrival of the “savior-leader” was exactly what the angels and the hymn writer were singing about:

Joy to the World, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room.

The night the angels sang, the world was “downcast” because it had rejected its rightful King. America and the rest of the world are still downcast because we continue not to make room for our rightful King.

We’ll make room for a George Bush or a Barack Obama, and we’ll make room for whatever Pied Piper we elect President in 2016. We’ll make room for Democrats in Congress when Republicans don’t deliver the salvation we’re looking for (November 2006), and then turn around and vote them out and make room for Republicans to try their hand again (November 2014).

We’ll make room for about anything and anybody but Jesus, the reason for the season. And we’ve not made room for Him since Joseph was looking for a place to spend the night with a very pregnant Mary.

Will we get it now and make Him room? Apparently not.

When asked to name the “biggest problem facing the country,” the top two were still the economy and jobs. Those two things are statistically the best in years, yet we’re more downcast than ever. We continue to believe the lie that more of what didn’t satisfy us to begin with will somehow satisfy us now.

Interestingly, juxtaposed with these problems, at the bottom of the list was “morality” at 1 percent. I’m surprised the pollsters even listed it as a choice, because if morality is the problem, then that means we are the problem. We prefer to think our problems are external because they might be fixable by the savior-politician who promises a way to a better economy and better jobs.

And with that thought, I’m reminded of the less well-known last verse of “Joy to the World”:

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nation’s prove
The glories of his righteousness
And wonders of His love.

In other words, He does rule the world, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, and whether we want to acknowledge that our rebellion against His rule might be our problem. And He does not rule with the sham diversity and inclusiveness grounded in self-refuting moral relativism we espouse today, but with a grace toward our rebellion that is grounded in absolute truth.

Eventually, when we get sick enough of our own misery to look beyond externalities to the truth, I bet we will find that we have indeed “proved” the “glories of his righteousness.” And when that happens, we will “wonder” at the love of a King who would so patiently wait for us to prepare Him room.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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silhouette of youth and sports equipment

Toward a Genderless Society: Little Laws Can Produce Big Results

Years ago I was on a softball team of young college guys that met a team of “old guys” in a tournament finals. Most of the other team’s players looked to be in their late 40s and even 50s, and their physiques didn’t compare favorably to those of some of our guys. But they attacked the game differently than we did and beat us handily. I mention this because many conservatives are oblivious to the fact that the same “style of play” is being used by liberals to work toward an improbable “win” in Tennessee.

On the softball field, we young guys relied on our strength to get the “big hit,” and the old guys relied on their skill to single and double us to death. We died athletically from a hundred “little” hits in strategic places—the places where we had a hole in our defense. That’s what liberals have done in changing society’s view of marriage and are now doing with respect to gender.

In the case of marriage, conservatives across the country have been so intent on defending marriage at the state level that they sometimes didn’t pay enough attention to the burgeoning number of comparatively “little” laws at local levels of government. Those laws redefined what was sexually acceptable under the guise of prohibiting discrimination and bullying, and they had their true intended effect—teaching Americans over time that two people of the same sex wanting to have intercourse with each other is no different from someone being of a particular race, ethnicity, or sex. If you don’t believe such was the objective of these “little” laws, then you need to read After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s.

And liberals are now doing the same thing with gender in an effort to create a genderless society. I’ll explain how that is happening in Tennessee, but first let me give you a picture of the future if we don’t pay attention.

In Minnesota the transgender lobby just pushed through the Minnesota State High School League a policy that outlaws all sex distinctions in high school sports. It grants students the choice to play on either boys’ or girls’ teams if they feel their gender is different from their biology. Under this scheme, sex differences in high school sports on the field or in locker rooms, bathrooms, and hotel rooms will be rooted not in biological reality, but in each student’s perception of himself or herself.

Of course, Tennessee is not ready to do that at the state level, but a couple of things should be noted. First, the Board of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association is not accountable to the voters in Tennessee. I’m not saying the Board’s ready to take up the subject; I am just noting that if the day ever comes, they won’t have to worry about later asking for your vote.

Second, but more importantly and of greater immediate concern, anti-bullying laws will be the “little laws” used now to prepare the way, over time, for genderless schools. And students indoctrinated in those schools to deny biological reality will someday be our leaders. What conservatives need to understand is that such a law is already being pushed in Tennessee.

Last year an anti-bullying bill listed “gender” among the litany of characteristics for which a student should not be bullied. Interestingly, the bill did not include the characteristic of “sex.” In other words, “sex,” which is rooted in biology, is not important, just “gender,” which, by definition, will be what a student perceives “its” gender to be.

Unfortunately, last year’s House Education subcommittee members could not find the fortitude to vote down the bill, but instead approved a proposal asking a liberal state agency to come back with suggestions for new anti-bullying laws. They were playing with fire, but thankfully the bill died in the Senate before it could go any further in the House.

So, conservatives, keep your eye on the ball. It’s not just the big, bad bill by liberals you need to worry about. A multitude of seemingly innocuous little ones can lead to the same result, and like my softball team, you won’t know what beat you until it’s too late.

Read Related Articles:

Minnesota Family Council Explains Latest MSHSL Policy

Minnesota State High School League Policy (Fourth Edition)

Parents Outraged at Proposed Minnesota Transgender Policy (LifeSiteNews)


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

FACT-RSS-Blog-Icon-small Get David Fowler’s Blog as a feed.

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silhouette of pregnant woman and outline of the United States

Immigration, Abortion, and the Missing Virtue

President Obama takes executive action on immigration, and some Congressional leaders promise to do whatever it takes to stop him. Amendment 1 removes the judicial impediment to abortion regulations, and some pro-life state legislators may want to make up for “lost time” in regulating abortion. As I considered the two situations, a word seldom used anymore kept coming to mind.

That word is prudence. It is known as one of the four cardinal virtues. And it is virtue particularly needed at a time when the vast majority of Americans distrust their government and politicians. Without prudence, that distrust will only grow, and without trust, our government cannot function well.

Prudence Defined

Prudence was defined by Noah Webster in his famous 1828 dictionary as follows:

“Prudence implies caution in deliberating and consulting on the most suitable means to accomplish valuable purposes, and the exercise of sagacity in discerning and selecting them. Prudence differs from wisdom in this, that prudence . . . is exercised more in foreseeing and avoiding evil, than in devising and executing that which is good . . . .”

Or, as Webster summed it up in the last sentence of his definition: “Prudence is principally in reference to actions to be done, and due means, order, season and method of doing or not doing.”

Immigration

In the case of immigration, prudence is certainly needed. Our immigration “situation” is a mess. There are legal, constitutional, philosophical, theological, and practical issues to be considered. The impact of any policy will be great and far reaching. If a pebble thrown in a lake causes ripples vastly disproportionate to its circumference, then action on immigration is by comparison a boulder thrown into a pond.

That the President thinks he knows what is right and is willing to do it even if it is contrary to his previously expressed understanding of his limited constitutional authority is clear evidence that he lacks prudence.

That some Republicans, in an exercise of bravado and playing to their base, start saying they will do whatever it takes to stop him could lead to counterproductive actions and more government distrust if prudence is not exercised.

In saying that, I don’t mean that nothing should be done on immigration or that unconstitutional exercises of authority should go unchecked. But prudence dictates that there be serious deliberation and consultation in order to determine the “due means, order, season and method” of approaching an unavoidable issue and reigning in the president.

Abortion

And in Nashville prudence should dictate how pro-life legislators proceed after the passage of Amendment 1.

Public polls and campaign internal polls showed that well over 60% of Tennesseans believed a woman should be fully informed prior to an abortion, have time to consider that information absent life-threatening exigent circumstances, and know that the clinic she went to was licensed and inspected by the state health department. So, the prudent legislator would ask, “If that’s true, then why did the amendment only pass with only 53% of the vote?”

Having been intimately involved in the campaign, I can give you my opinion. The ten percentage point difference was a reflection of people’s distrust of their government and politicians and their application of that distrust to specter raised by opponents that the legislature would go “too far” in regulating abortion, beyond what they were ready to accept.

In that atmosphere of distrust and fear of government interference, prudence might consider how the cause of life can best be advanced over the long haul, not just in the short run. Whether prudence or being seen by others as the most pro-life legislator will win the day remains to be seen.

Conclusion

Prudence is in short supply in politics these days. And perhaps it’s because politicians cast prudence aside to placate the frustration of voters with gridlock. But as an old legislative colleague of mine used to say, “Sometimes you can get there faster by going slower.” Advice some of our current politicians would do well to heed.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

FACT-RSS-Blog-Icon-small Get David Fowler’s Blog as a feed.

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