Excuse Me, Madam Speaker

Nancy Pelosi made Stupid History by her claim that “family planning” funds will stimulate the economy. Her argument, if you can dignify it with that term, is that reducing unwanted pregnancies will reduce the burden on the taxpayers. But she doesn’t ask herself whether more contraception is really the answer to “unwanted” pregnancies.

I recently had the opportunity to visit with some teen mothers in Reno, Nevada. Casa de Vida is a private, nonprofit corporation providing a home and support services for pregnant young women. The youngest was 14; the oldest was just twenty. These are presumably the mothers whose pregnancies are expensive to the taxpayers. These young unmarried mothers need a variety of social services in order to take care of their babies. The Casa has a special classroom set up in their basement, so the girls can finish high school. Some will be unable to go back to their families for a variety of reasons and will need subsidized housing. Many take advantage of jobs training programs. And of course, virtually none of them have their own health insurance, so the taxpayers pay for medical care for the mothers and babies. The social worker refers them to the public services for which they qualify. 

I came at the invitation of some of the Board members to talk with the girls about sex. Their social worker wanted me to help them think about having a plan for dealing with the desires they are sure to have for another relationship with a man. Neither I nor the social worker had any illusion that one chat in an afternoon will change the whole course of their lives. But we do hope that we gave them a few thoughts that will lodge in their brains when they need them later.

So we talked about their hopes and dreams for their babies. These young women want to be good mothers, and they want to be loved. Right now, they are focused on the immediate fact that their babies will be born soon. I tried to help them think about their futures beyond the birth of their babies. One day, they will be interested in boys again. Their social worker had told me that a) most of them won’t even consider adoption and b) most of them will be pregnant again within two years. 

Talking with them helped me to see why the whole contraception approach to avoiding teen pregnancy is so hopeless. These girls get pregnant because they want to: they want to be loved by their boyfriends, and by their babies. Contraception is notoriously unreliable among teens. Even among women seeking abortions, who you might think would be especially motivated to avoid pregnancy, 53% were using some form of contraception at the time they conceived.[1] Passing out pills or promising abortions doesn’t deal with the underlying desires that are driving their behavior. 

Social worker Paula Crandall and Casa de Vida Board Member Kathleen Rossi told me that, sometimes, the Casa turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to the girls. Some of them are able to develop a sense of their own worth as persons. They get adult assistance in the ordinary problems of living, such as finishing high school, applying for jobs, looking for an apartment and so on. For some of them, the staff members at the Casa are the first adults who have taken a real interest in them, and who have the means to really help them with these basic skills. No amount of “comprehensive sex education” or “access to reproductive health” can meet these very deep-seated human needs.

If Nancy Pelosi wants to reduce the costs to taxpayers, she should be promoting marriage. Out-of-wedlock child-bearing is one of the surest roads to poverty and thereby, to taxpayer expenditure. A recent study by the Institute for American Values conservatively estimated the taxpayer costs of non-marital childbearing to be $112 billion per year, or roughly the GDP of New Zealand.[2] Responsible, sustainable childbearing takes place within marriage. And incidentally, if Speaker Pelosi really wants to reduce abortions (which she hinted at, but did not say) she should also be promoting marriage. Some 80% of abortions, year in and year out, are performed on unmarried women. [3]

Having babies and raising them to responsible adulthood is a significant social investment. If the family around the child breaks down or never forms in the first place, the odds of the child being raised to responsible adulthood are greatly reduced. These young girls are having babies, not because their contraception has failed, not because they don’t know how to use contraception. They are having babies because they want to be loved. If Nancy Pelosi wants to save the taxpayer some money in the long run, she needs to stop investing in irresponsible sex, and start investing in responsible adult supervision and guidance of the young.

I’m not holding my breath.

[1] “Contraceptive Use Among U.S. Women Having Abortions in 2000-2001,” Rachel K. Jones, Jacqueline E. Darroch and Stanley K. Henshaw, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2002, 34(6):294-303.[2] The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing: First-Ever Estimates for the Nation and for All Fifty States, Benjamin Scafidi, Principal Investigator, (New York: Institute for American Values, 2008).

[3] MMWR: Abortion Surveillance-United States, 2004, Center for Disease Control, Surveillance Summaries, November 23, 2007/ 56 (ss09) 1-33, Table 1.

[This article is published by Jennifer Roback Morse, and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on MercatorNet.com are published under different terms.]

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  • Grace Harman

    Contraceptives pollute our water, harm fish and anphibians, have dangerous side effects for women, (and maybe men too) and the high failure rates will cause more pregnancies and subsequent abortions, but they don’t stop unwanted pregnancies.
    Waiting until marriage would reduce cost to taxpayers and government programs.
    More contraceptives will just make more problems. We need to promote true marriage and waiting for marriage before starting sex.

  • The goal here is to help us convince those who hold the contraceptive mentality without thinking to re-examine their views in the light of new facts. New facts are the only thing that will get somebody to change their mind.

  • DonHudzinski

    Democrats want everyone on the tax payroll, it is thier God that saves us and no other God can.

  • Joe DeVet

    Three cheers for Dr. Morse, who was a tireless worker last fall for the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Lots of good stuff on The Ruth Institute website too.

    At the same time, fie on Nancy Pelosi. In all her public statements, I can’t find an ounce of good sense or clear thinking, nor any sign of adherence to her Catholic faith.

  • Warren Jewell

    Yo, Nan, assuming that we will still have a House of Representatives, won’t the Speaker of the House some thirty years hence wonder where all the taxpayers are? Some of the ‘entitled’ aged – if some are left to live – may explain that “Nancy Pelosi in 2009 called our children burdens, so we unburdened ourselves.”

    And, the government policy director on ‘progress’ in Great Britain has it that two children are enough. One expert not merely disagreed, but showed how with all the culture of death chicanery behind abuse of marriage and family child-bearing, the families that do procreate actually need between three and four children – commonly, families with five or six members – just to stay even with population.

    How is it we draw the dullards and dolts into governance?
    Or, is it that government service has become so repellent to solid candidates?
    Could it be that politicians are drawn to politics because they can be reelection-buying dead-wood there?
    Would they be such mediocrities in actual productive careers?
    Maybe the bulk of the lawyer-politicos could barely be paralegals in a law firm?

    And, just when are Dr. Morse, Mark Shea, Mary Kochan, et al, going to run for office? Don’t ask about me – I couldn’t be positively vetted for dog catcher.

  • Cheryl Dickow


    You are being too hard on yourself regarding the vetting process — just check out what’s been happening in the past couple of weeks in D.C. and you’ll see that anything goes so don’t set your sights on dog catcher — there must be a cabinet post that has your name on it:-)

  • goral

    Nancy Pelosi is the one who’s a burden on the taxpayers. As a politician she produces nothing. Her salary alone would fund one of these homes for pregnant young women. These woman for whatever reason decided to give life a chance. There is a very strong possibility that one or more of these persons will grow up and be a benefit and a blessing to others. The possibility of ma’am speaker being a blessing is about the same as her bishop showing her the door.

  • Pelosi is not a Catholic. Her Bishop needs to make that clear to all.

  • Pingback: Why Contraceptives Don’t Work « Extraordinary Moms Network()