Should Trump give Miss New Jersey a second chance, too?

Posted: Jan 16, 2007 9:01 PM

The very public feud between Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump erupted after Rosie criticized The Donald's decision to give Miss USA a very public "second chance." Donald, what do you think about doing the same for Miss New Jersey USA?

Ashley Harder voluntarily stepped down after discovering that she was pregnant, which is against the pageant rules.

Ashley could have kept the chance to compete for the Miss USA title this March by having a safe and legal abortion. Instead she demonstrated that some things really are more important than reaching for Donald Trump's tiara: "This isn't another scandal. This is a baby; this is a life," Harder told a reporter. And she said being a mom "is a title I have always wanted and will always cherish."

Ashley also told the Philadelphia Daily News that she and her live-in boyfriend (28, with a snowboarding apparel company) are thinking of getting married. People like me would wish she had thought harder about that before getting pregnant.

But in fairness to Ashley, her situation is no longer unusual. According to the CDC's latest report, nearly four in 10 American babies are born outside of marriage, an increasing proportion to cohabiting couples. An analysis of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth found that young women who cohabit are about twice as likely as young women who are either married or have a noncohabiting boyfriend to experience a "contraceptive failure." For women in Ashley's age bracket (20 to 24), about a quarter experience a contraceptive failure (also known as a pregnancy) in the first 12 months of use.

Other surveys show that the majority of cohabiting young women see themselves in permanent, faithful, marriagelike relationships. Unfortunately, surveys of young men who cohabit show that as a group they are less committed to their girlfriends than men who are simply dating (and not living with) a woman. I sincerely hope that Miss New Jersey USA has chosen a man who will prove an exception, the kind who properly appreciates having in his life a beautiful, talented woman who, given a choice between bearing and loving his child and parading before national television cameras, appears to have had no difficulty picking the former. (Memo to same: At my mall, Tiffany's is open until 9 p.m.)

The latest CDC data also show clearly that teenagers are no longer driving the increases in unmarried childbearing. About half of all illegitimate births in 1970 were to teens, but only a quarter were in 2004. As recently as 1980, just 19 percent of births to women in their early 20s were outside of marriage; in 2004, almost 55 percent of women this age who gave birth were still single.

Shouldn't we do something about this? Even the CDC acknowledges that "living with two parents who are married to each other is associated with more favorable outcomes for children."

Maybe the success at reducing unmarried teen births could be replicated. Maybe the government could use the billion dollars or so it spends on teen pregnancy prevention to widen and update its mission: Teach the next generation they should be grown, educated and married before deciding to get pregnant.

And maybe this year, Miss New Jersey USA could announce that she and her boyfriend are entering a marriage education class, in order to maximize the likelihood that they will give their child the gift of a loving, lasting marriage. "Strengthening marriage so that more children are raised by their own loving mom and dad will be my mission," Miss Harder could say. A new model for a new generation.

Donald, what do you think: Could it happen?