"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NASB)
In a recent article castigating the GOP's "anti-abortion absolutism," Slate's Jacob Weisberg maintains that "...two conservative social goals—ending abortion and upholding the model of the nuclear family—[have always been] in tension."
Weisberg argues that pro-life "extremism" (viz., opposing abortion on demand) is inherently at odds with promoting stable, two-parent families. How so? According to Weisberg, "If you do not allow teenage girls who accidentally become pregnant to have abortions, you are demanding either that they raise their children as single mothers or that they marry in shotgun weddings." In neither case, Weisberg maintains, are you likely to have a stable family. He then lays out the difficult path that single moms and young married couples have to walk.
Case in point? You guessed it, Bristol Palin! According to Weisberg, "The Bristol Palin option [Bristol plans to marry her boyfriend, the father of her child] doesn't promote family happiness, stability, or traditional structure…." (You gotta love the liberals' new found concern for traditional families.) Weisberg then allows as to how he has "long expected the Republican Party to resolve this conflict in its social vision by moderating its stance on abortion." In other words, when protecting life puts the "traditional family" at risk, Weisberg thinks abortion is the best option.
Weisberg's argument is patently false and profoundly uncharitable.
Strong family values and support for innocent life go hand in hand. The conservative emphasis on the family only makes sense when the life of every member of the family is valued. After all, how can a family be "stable" if it kills its own members? While the circumstances of conception may be less than ideal, destroying the child of an ill-considered union will not produce a stable family. Weisberg laments single-parent situations and shotgun weddings, but they are certainly to be preferred over killing an innocent child.
Strong family values can still be pursued even under less than ideal circumstances. In the case of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, the family has an opportunity and an obligation to step up to the plate and show their son or daughter love and support. Abortion may be a quick fix for someone looking to escape the consequences of their actions, but it ignores the duty owed to the innocent child as well as to others affected by the decision. The ready availability of abortion has caused many, including Mr. Weisberg, to look down upon anyone "stupid enough" to take responsibility for their decisions and raise their own children.
The media frenzy that erupted over Bristol Palin's pregnancy is symptomatic of the toxic atmosphere surrounding those who take responsibility for their choices and who choose to bear burdens of their own creation. Bristol's family did not excuse the young woman's misguided choice that resulted in her pregnancy, but they responded with love and support for her, the child, and the child's father. The media, on the other hand, ran wild with the "scandal." Young Ms. Palin could have avoided tabloid-like scrutiny had she had a quiet abortion. Instead, by taking the responsible road, she wound up on public display, thanks to the media and gossip columnists everywhere.
Unwed mothers have two moral choices that are not fraught with moral hazard: keep the child and raise it themselves or put it up for adoption. Weisberg dismisses the latter option by explaining that, "in the real world," very few such mothers give their children up for adoption. He ignores how the numbers are influenced by the ready availability of abortion on demand. Why go through the hassle when you can quickly rid yourself of the "problem?"
Further, there is a fatal flaw in Weisberg's argument that single mothers and shotgun weddings are directly opposed to the ideals of conservatives. Not surprisingly, he misrepresents the conservative view. While conservatives see the traditional two-parent family as the ideal, they are not naïve. Even though we give our children a target to shoot for, we know they will sometimes miss. Conservatives know that all people—especially young people—make mistakes. They also know, however, that the best way to establish a strong, family-centered culture is for families to come together and help their youngsters assume responsibility when they make mistakes. Better to learn from mistakes than to take the easy way out or run away from the problem.
What Weisberg fails to understand is that promoting abortion as the solution to a "problem" erodes the foundation of the conservative understanding of family values. Protecting and nurturing life is one of the primary roles of the family. Our human failings and shortcomings should not cause us to turn from our ideals. We are fallen and imperfect, but we can be forgiven for those failings. And like the One who forgives us, we ought to forgive one another, pick each other up when we fall, and continue striving for life and family.