Dumpster children and mandatory marriage

Another child tossed in the garbage. That’s the big local news where I live. But this one was not an unwanted newborn, as most dumpster children are. This little boy had managed to reach the age of three before he somehow met an untimely death and was bagged and tossed in the dumpster by his 20-year old mother. The details have yet to be revealed.

The boy’s 19-year old father, who had two more children by one or more young women, was not in his 3-year old son’s life. The young mother was raising the little boy by herself, along with his 5-year old and 5-month old half-siblings. Three children, three absent fathers. One single, unequipped, frazzled and frightened young mother.

Much has been said and written about the problem of teen mothers and irresponsible fathers, and the issue is in many ways complicated and difficult. But children are suffering and sometimes dying as a result of it, and we as a society have an obligation to protect our children. I propose a quite drastic measure but one which I believe would have far reaching positive effects – require impregnating fathers to marry the mother.

This may seem like an assault on basic civil liberties, but if government has an interest in requiring that its citizens wear seatbelts, controlling where they can smoke, or requiring everyone to have health insurance, certainly it has an interest in family arrangements that maximize the likelihood that its youngest and most vulnerable are protected and well cared for.

Here’s how and why I envision this vastly improving the welfare of our children, our young people, and our society as a whole. First…teen sexual activity and pregnancies would diminish drastically. Every teenage boy would think twice, or more, before bedding any willing female if he knew it might result in a marriage he’s not interested in, and a life totally different from what he was expecting. At the very least, he would be more conscientious about using good birth control. In the current laissez–faire climate where premarital sex is expected and no-strings-attached, where an unwed father has virtually no responsibilities to provide anything to the children he is a partner in creating, he has little incentive to control his sexual impulses. This would be a huge one.

Second…the decrease in pregnancies would result in more young women realizing their potential, finishing high school and going on to college, if they desire, accomplishments that bearing a child in their teen years makes quite difficult. They would have a better chance of discovering their unique gifts and talents, what makes them special, something that is short-circuited when they are forced to take on parenting responsibilities while they’re still in need of parenting themselves.

Third, and most important, when a child is created, he or she has a better chance of being loved and protected when raised by both his natural mother and father. An unmarried mother usually brings a boyfriend into the picture, and often into the home, and the overwhelming majority of child abuse injuries and fatalities are committed by the mother’s boyfriend. But even without that danger, raising young children alone is extremely stressful, and if the mother is young herself, she is unprepared to handle it well, and those kids are likely to suffer emotionally and psychologically, if not physically.

The benefits to society would also be great. A young man with responsibilities to provide for a wife and child is more likely to be employed and less likely to turn to crime. Married families are overwhelmingly better off financially than unmarried ones, resulting in a more stable economy and a less needed welfare system. And the children who will become adults in this society will be more stable as well.

Of course, a few other things would need to happen for this proposal to even have a chance of being seriously considered. We would have to largely abandon our exclusively romanticized notion of marriage as a union of two soul-mates that can be easily dissolved if we discover our mate has no clue to our soul. We would have to return to the faith of our ancestors who understood that we were never promised personal fulfillment and happiness in this life but we are promised it in the next, and the trials now prepare us to enjoy them then. And that only such faith and understanding allows us to truly flourish in this life and find joy and contentment in whatever lot we find ourselves in.

And innocent life, in all its forms, must be valued and protected. When a child’s life in the womb can be snuffed out if it’s deemed an inconvenience, it is no stretch to conclude that an inconvenient 3-year old will have less inherent value to protect him from an immature, stressed adult.

Mandatory marriage may seem like a return to the Dark Ages if the enlightened view is one that elevates self above all others. The age it belongs in is one that values and honors self-sacrifice for the benefit of the poor and needy, the disadvantaged and displaced, the young and helpless.

Isn’t that this one?