Is The Pro-Life Movement Responsible For Unwed Motherhood?

The debate over the question of values has been a prominent part of American politics since 1968 when the rise of the left-wing counterculture began the process of smothering the authentic voice of the Democratic Party and eventually overran it. The Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973 accelerated the process and another notable benchmark came in 1992 when then-Vice-President Dan Quayle criticized the TV show Murphy Brown for glorifying single parenting. The question of “family values”, or whatever one wants to term it, has always been seen as encompassing more than the right to life and extending to social questions like broken marriages and the rise of unwed motherhood.

Now an article by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone in the left-wing publication Slate targets the right-to-life movement as the real villain in the rise of unwed motherhood. The authors come out point-blank and draw the conclusion—admittedly not illogical—that pro-lifers are to blame for unwed mothers.

It’s here that it would be nice for some consistency from the political Left. On the one hand, the pro-life movement is often portrayed as the modern-day equivalent of the Pharisees, obedient to the law, but lacking in mercy for anyone who dares come up a step short. Now, Cahn and Carbone seem to be pushing the notion that the problem in socially conservative communities is that they, in fact, are too merciful and shouldn’t be embracing these out-of-wedlock births.

Bristol Palin's embrace of her unborn child represented the best values of the pro-life movement.

The authors even cite the pregnancy of then seventeen-year-old Bristol Palin and go on to write—“Democratic women were appalled—mystified why anyone thought having a 17-year-old raise a child was a good idea.” Of course, no one ever said it was a good idea—but my guess is that Bristol’s child prefers being alive under a less-than-ideal arrangement.

The Catholic Church is, of course, the world’s foremost defender of the right to life. For years, left-wing critics seemed to think the Church wanted to brand every unwed mother with a scarlet letter. Now the critics seem to have reversed gears and decided that they’re angry that the pro-life beliefs of Catholics and other religious traditions is getting in the way of preserving the two-parent ideal.

But the reality is that the Church has always been the protector of those who believe in the ideal, even if certain circumstances in life have left us short of the mark. An embracement of the unwed mother is just a prominent example.

The article by Cahn and Carbone concludes with the observation “…a well-funded and influential anti-abortion movement contributed to the growth of single parenthood. Conservatives should at least start to be more open about whether this is a price they are willing to pay.”

Whether it’s Catholic conservatives or pro-life Catholic liberals, they answer must always yes, a thousand times yes, the protection of human life is eminently worth the price.

Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of



  • Ellen Jauregui Contard

    Indeed. How horrifying that pro-life advocates would embrace and support unwed mothers, whether they parent or relinquish their babies, instead of just encouraging them to solve their “little problem” by just snuffing out another human life. What’s wrong with the world. 😉

  • Chris R

    Well said. It may be irresponsible to conceive a child out of wedlock, but the responsible thing to do then is to give the child a chance to live.

  • tranxtian

    “but my guess is that Bristol’s child prefers being alive under a less-than-ideal arrangement.”

    Weird, I bet those children being raised by gay parents are saying the same thing.

    Stop being hypocritical and harming the children of gay parents by banning those families from the legal rights, benefits and protections that you freely give to straight families. It reflects poorly on all Catholics when you make such ridiculous statements.

    • Chris

      The article has nothing to do with homosexuality, yet you are intent on pushing it anyway. But, if you recognize that children being raised by homosexuals is a less than ideal situation, why do it or allow it? That is crazy- knowingly putting a child into a situation you know is not good, which is why such situations are a form of child abuse. (This is not to even mention the many problems that children raised by homosexuals face.) And there is a world of difference between someone becoming pregnant through natural heterosexual relations and homosexuals going out of their way to force someone to let them adopt or to make a child in a laboratory, as homosexual acts are intrinsically incapable of creating life as human beings were not meant to engage in them.

      The difference does not lie in quantity, that all you need is two people; one of the main problems of illegitimacy is being raised without one of the complementary male/ female parents, usually the father, not in the fact that there only happens to be one physical person. If you want to stop harming children that homosexuals have gotten a hold of, ask them to give the kids up for adoption to a male and female. It is quite backwards to say “we are going to get a hold of children anyway, and put them into a bad situation, so then you need to give us “benefits” to supposedly rectify it.”

    • abadilla

      Wow, if it isn’t Traxtian again pushing the homosexual agenda down our throats! Where did you see anything in the article stating anything about homosexuality?

  • Theodore Seeber

    And once again, left wingers use abortion and stigma against single mothers to let the deadbeat fathers completely off the hook.

    The response to teen unwed pregnancy should be marriage and apprenticeship jobs for the fathers, not killing the child.

  • Gail Finke

    Wow. I guess that’s a price liberals are not willing to pay. Not surprising, really, but they usually do’nt come out and say it.



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