The Thinking 

Abortion and Unwed Motherhood

February 21, 2011


TRAVEL THROUGHOUT America, into small towns, or big suburbs or dense cities, and you will find the phenomenon of single motherhood. One of the most obvious developments of recent years is the lower middle-class white girl who comes from an intact or relatively intact family and who ends up as a single mother. She finds herself in this situation because she is anti-abortion and yet not anti-fornication. There is no pressure on her to marry and yet there is the good and healthy moral incentive to refuse abortion.

She may be cheered by friends and religious organizations for her decision to have a child. And, refusing abortion is the right thing to do. However, it is easy to confuse this heroic decision as something that makes single motherhood right and good. Unless both abortion and unwed pregnancy are stigmatized, social conservatism becomes an unwitting promoter of single motherhood.

Abortion rates have fallen in recent years while single motherhood has increased precipitously. Here is a 2008 piece by Selwyn Duke on the relation between anti-abortion sentiment and the growth of single motherhood. The answer is not for anti-abortion efforts to become less zealous.  Both abortion and single motherhood were shameful fifty years ago and the incidence of both was much lower.

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