"Is Traditional Marriage Toast?" That question
recently caught my attention as the heading of an article in the
neo-conservative Weekly Standard
answer was either "very possibly" (a subhead attached to the piece)
or "probably not" (an objective reading would suggest that). Take
not afraid. Marriage and family life won't vanish, given that they correspond
to fundamental human interests and needs. But marriage and family are indeed in
serious trouble in America. And many--most?--public policy solutions to this
crisis are wrongheaded, to say the least.
Repeatedly operative here is an
unarticulated value system that concerned Americans have a right to insist be
brought to light and debated. Take the current dispute over whether to give
very young teenagers unrestricted access to morning-after pills. Partisans on
both sides of this argument evidently take for granted (and some perhaps even
welcome) a degree of social breakdown that their preferred policy approaches
would not just confirm but make worse.
all, wouldn't sensible policy-makers go after the root of the problem--teenage
sexual activity, that is? Foolish ones water the roots. Which, to change the
metaphor, is like trying to fix a cracked teacup by banging on it with a
April, a federal district judge held that the government should allow children
of any age to buy so-called emergency contraceptives without a prescription.
The Obama administration has ordered the Justice Department to appeal this
ruling on the grounds that the judge exceeded his competence. Meanwhile, the
Food and Drug Administration has reacted by setting 15 as the earliest age for
is a narrative of gross confusion. The underlying problem here is clear enough:
it's premature sexual activity by young kids. But instead of suggesting steps
to discourage that, the principal parties to this dispute propose to facilitate
it to one degree or another. How counterproductive can policy get? A cynic
might be tempted to say, "Why not just hand the stuff out free of charge
in middle school lunchrooms?"
this point, I can hear the knee-jerk objection: "Do you want kids to get
pregnant and have abortions instead?"
not. But let's not end the discussion there. People who object to what's going
on aren't merely objecting--they want something hugely positive in its place.
Specifically, they want a broadbased restoration of responsible parenting in
America, accompanied by government policies that support a determined national
effort to rebuild the structures of marriage and family so foolishly undermined
for decades. Government can't do it alone, but it can help--and it also can
refrain from making matters worse.
stands in the way of a remedial program? The difficulty of the task, for one
thing, together with the likelihood that it would be expensive (though far less
costly in the long run than allowing the present collapse to continue
above and beyond negatives like these, the greatest obstacle to sensible policy
in these matters is the ethically bankrupt notion that remedies aren't
needed--it's unavoidable, and perhaps not all that bad, that very young
teenagers should be or become sexually active. In which case it also follows
that they should have all the morning-after pills they want without being
hassled about it.
put it mildly, a society that thinks this way has lost its moral bearings. That
federal judges and government officials do so only magnifies an alarming state
of affairs. Sometimes it's hard not to wonder where America is headed. Other
times it's frighteningly clear.