teen pregnancy

Ending "Disposable Marriage"

In yesterday's News Stand, we posted a commentary from CNN.com entitled, "Let's End Disposable Marriage," by retiring Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears. It is a startling piece about an issue that affects nearly every American family — divorce — yet is seldom addressed by the political class. In her column, Justice Sears wrote:

The coupling and uncoupling we've become accustomed to undermines our democracy, destroys our families and devastates the lives of our children, who are not as resilient as we may wish to think. The one-parent norm, which is necessary and successful in many cases, nevertheless often creates a host of other problems, from poverty to crime, teen pregnancy and drug abuse.

It has become too easy for people to walk away from their families and commitments without a real regard for the gravity of their decision and the consequence for other people, particularly children.

These are the words not of a "right winger," but of someone who has been mentioned as a potential Barack Obama nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court and who was a target of the Georgia Republican Party and Christian Coalition during her 2004 re-election. She has seen the catastrophic results of unilateral divorce both personally and professionally, writing, "As a judge I have long held a front row seat to the wreckage left behind by our culture of disposable marriage and casual divorce."

The tide is turning on the issue of no-fault divorce. Last fall, a poll found that 62 percent of Californians do not think that either spouse should be allowed to terminate marriage at any time for any reason. This from the state that gave us no-fault divorce in the first place! It is time that we address this issue head on, both in the church and in the arena of public policy.

Few can doubt the harm that unilateral divorce has brought to American families. Still, many think this is one of those issues where the most one can do is throw up their hands. It's not. 

The Family Foundation has proposed that mutual consent must be required for a couple to divorce when children are involved — meaning that one spouse cannot simply walk away without cause. Unfortunately, this proposal has met with little support from either political party in Richmond. In fact, when presented, most elected officials we've talked with have run for cover. But we will continue to advocate for this proposal until it receives a fair and complete hearing in the General Assembly and becomes law. 

We can talk all we want about fixing our tax code to help families. We can work toward "fixing" health care and all of the other economic challenges we face. But the fact is that we will not adequately address the issue of saving the American family until we address the issue of unilateral divorce. Until we elect representatives with the courage to tackle this issue we will be doing little to save the next generation from the same devastating consequences that we seek to overcome today.

Press Conference, Continued

Bob Ruthazer of First Things First of Greater Richmond is speaking now: In Richmond, non-marital births are more than 80 percent among blacks and more than 60 percent for all residents. Fatherless children are:

Five times more likely to be poor;

Two-three more times likely to smoke;

Two times more likely to drop out of school;

150 times more likely have a non-marital teen pregnancy;

70 percent of juveniles in state institutions grow up in fatherless homes; and

72 percent of adolescent murderers grow up without fathers.

This is the time to make a modest investment in families. Just one percent investment of TANF funds would make a huge impact.

Now, Arne Owens, a former federal sub-cabinet official is speaking:

Academics throughout the decades, going back to the 1970s, stayed quiet. But in the late 1980s, they started to confront the issue as the statistics became undeniable. Dan Quayle was right about "Murphy Brown"! As one academic wrote, "The divorce experiment has failed."

In the 1990s, a movement began to take shape to advance marriage and the two-parent family. The result was the 1996 welfare reform act. It was designed to negate the negative impact of AFDC (Aid to Families of Dependent Children). It paid a young mother to get divorced and more for each additional child she had out of wedlock.

One of the goals was to move people off welfare and into the workforce. While that has been successful, it has not reached its goals in strengthening families and marriage.

In 2005, Congress passed a $150 million appropriation from TANF funding, that would be dispersed through grants to non-profit groups, to promote fatherhood and intact families, encouraging marriage and preventing divorce.

The CDC said a few weeks ago that out-of wedlock births in this country still is more than 60 percent.

Victoria Cobb summarizes by saying that Governor Kaine cannot address poverty without addressing broken families.