Jacob Weisberg explains how conservatives supposedly sold out their pro-family principles for the pro-life cause:
... these two conservative social goals--ending abortion and upholding the model of the nuclear family--were always in tension. The reason is that, like it or not, the availability of legal abortion supports the kind of family structure that conservatives once felt so strongly about: two parents raising children in a stable relationship, without government assistance. By 12th grade, 60 percent of high school girls are sexually active or, as Reagan put it, "promiscuous." Teen-pregnancy rates have been trending downward in recent years, but even so, 7 percent of high-school girls become pregnant every year. And the unfortunate reality is that teenagers who carry their pregnancies to term drastically diminish their chances of living out the conservative, or the American, dream.
... Give the anti-abortion extremists credit for living their principles. If they weren't deadly serious, they wouldn't sabotage their party's political prospects or sacrifice so many other values they hold dear for the sake of denying exceptions in cases of rape and incest. But Sarah Palin's pro-life extremism is as ethically flawed as it is politically damaging to the GOP. By vaunting their pro-life agenda over everything else, conservatives are abandoning one of their most valuable insights: that intact, two-parent families are best for children and for the foundation of a healthy society.
Let's boil this down to its essence: Weisberg is saying that if conservatives were really serious about wanting more intact families, we'd want young women to have many more abortions, not many fewer. After all, the steady rise in abortion rates from the '70s to the '90s correlated with a steady drop in teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births, and divorces, while the slow fall of abortion rates from the Clinton era to the present correlated with a spike in divorce rates and births to teens and unwed mothers.
Oh, what's that you say? In fact, roughly the opposite happened? Divorce rates, abortion rates, and teen pregnancy rates all peaked around the same time (1990 or so) and then fell together, while out-of-wedlock births have inched up much more slowly in an era of falling abortion rates than they did in an era of rising abortion numbers? Why, maybe that's because the incredibly simplistic model of human behavior Weisberg is sketching out here bears very little relationship to reality. Maybe it's because the availability and perceived moral acceptability of abortion has an impact on how and when and with what degree of caution teenagers and unmarried people have sex. Maybe it's because lots of people who think of abortion as the birth control of last resort, and let that thought inform their sexual conduct, don't actually want to have abortions when it comes right down to it. Maybe it's because the availability and acceptability of abortion makes men, in particular, more cavalier about sex, even though the women they're having sex with may not share their "just get rid of it" mentality.
Or maybe Weisberg is right, the evidence of the last thirty years should be thrown out, and we should just persist in the assumption that the two-parent family can only survive on a foundation of large-scale feticide - starting, one presumes, with Bristol Palin's unborn kid.
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