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Single Mothers Deserve Better

In a peculiar ideological twist, some opponents of abortion are opposing cuts in aid to single mothers. Many prolifers including National Right to Life, fear that such reductions in benefits will lead to an increase in abortions. Even Henry Hyde has joined Patricia Shroeder in being skeptical of welfare reform.

If this argument persuades, it could weaken ties between the Republican party and the anti-abortion movement.

But is their concern legitimate? Should we continue to subsidize single motherhood for fear that poor mothers might otherwise terminate their pregnancies? The answer is no on both counts.

State subsidies to single mothers encourage promiscuity. The point of removing the subsidies is to restore the natural penalties of risking pregnancy outside of marriage.

A National Bureau of Economic Research study demonstrates that a lack of funds is a reason why many women do not get abortions.

How can we be sure, once welfare is cut back, that promiscuity among the poor will decline? We cannot. But there is good reason to think it will.

I have counseled many women who have had abortions. I have never met one who did not regret getting pregnant in the first place. From their perspective, it is far better to say no to premarital sex or at least to avoid pregnancy. Reducing cash payments to single motherhood will reinforce this view.

Furthermore, just because a woman says that she plans to have an abortion because she cannot afford to support the child does not mean this is the real reason. Who would want to admit that the reasons to abort are to avoid the personal turmoil and embarrassing stigma of single motherhood?

The pro-welfare, anti-abortion crowd forgets that the Great Society and the sexual revolution coincided in time and place. The government sent the message that sexual promiscuity was morally neutral and that if pregnancy results, it would offer assistance. Since 1964 illegitimate births have zoomed 400 percent.

Prolifers must avoid becoming political pawns for pro-choice welfare statists, whose ultimate goal is fewer out-of-wedlock births through access to government-funded abortions. The anti-abortion goal should be fewer conceptions as a result of sexual restraint.

Even if welfare subsidies to single mothers are ended, there would still, of course, be out-of-wedlock births. And no one wants a society in which there is no help available. Yet the private sector can, will and, indeed, does provide for the needs of these women. According to National Right to Life there are approximately 3,000 crisis pregnancy clinics that receive no federal funding. Private citizens, in their role as charitable givers, will offer assistance–and to a much greater extent than they do now–if they know they are needed.

As the welfare state has grown, people have become less inclined to support private organizations and religious groups devoted to serving single mothers. They have paid for AFDC and the WIC program with their tax dollars, so they do not believe further assistance is necessary.

Besides, if the anti-abortion/pro-welfare position is correct, then government should offer a bribe to all women not to abort their children. Surely abortion opponents can see that this is unwise public policy. Instead, we should hope to stop having the government attempt to plan the lives of poor people. This alone would cause a resurgence of old-fashioned morality.