Monday, January 28, 2008

Dying Alone

Elizabeth Marquardt's beautiful article shows the complicated ways divorce affects death.
Temple University's Adam Davey found that aging stepparents were only half as likely as biological parents to receive care from grown children. "Society does not yet have a clear set of expectations for stepchildren's responsibility," he observed.

You can say that again. All stepchildren and stepparents forge a relationship in their own way. Some become deeply attached, some are virtually strangers, many fall somewhere in between. Even when stepchildren and stepparents are close, the deep ambiguity of the relationship can make losing a stepparent to death or divorce a profoundly lonely experience for the child. A friend told me about a colleague who had recently nursed her beloved stepmother, a woman she had grown up with, during a long illness. Even as she mourned her stepmother's death, the woman was mystified and hurt by the lack of support she had received from many friends and co-workers, who'd wondered why she would go out of her way to provide long-term, hands-on care to someone who was "only" a stepmother.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Treating Kids like Commodities

The Calgary Herald's Naomi Lakritz says we'll be sorry for treating kids like commodities. She starts with the recent story of a pair of siblings who were adopted separately married each other without knowing they were biological siblings. She moves to the story of aboriginal Canandian children who were adopted by white American families:
Adoption has thankfully come a long way from the days when an adopted child's origins were hushed up and treated as shameful. That's because adoptees have stood up and demanded access to information to help them answer that most basic of human questions: Who am I?

Everyone is entitled to that kind of information; it is necessary for the development of a healthy sense of self and of roots, of culture and heritage, and of one's place in the world.

We treat children as a commodity at our own peril. That is why the Manitoba government's '60s initiative to sweep thousands of aboriginal children off reserves and into the arms of white adoptive parents was a disaster.

These kids were given away to American parents who thought it was really exotic to have a cute Cree baby in the family, but when the children grew up and understood what had been done to them, the repercussions for their emotional health were devastating. Forty years later, some have successfully reunited with their families; others still wander between two worlds, suffering from all the social ills inherent in such a crisis of the soul.

She moves on to the potential of similar marriages among the much more frequent cases of children who were conceived with the genetic material of anonymous donors. These children will not know their biological origins.

No thought is being given to what happens when these children who are born from a dizzying array of egg and sperm concoctions reach adulthood and ask themselves those perennial human questions. Unlike the aboriginal children of 40 years ago, these babies will have even more to grapple with. That's because, for all Dr. Laura's insistence that a child's parents are the people who raise him or her, the fact remains that sperm and egg donors and a variety of surrogates are creating vast networks of biological half-siblings who run the risk of potentially marrying each other....There seems to be an attitude that if technology can mix eggs and sperm in ever weirder ways, it should just be done with no consideration for the child being created or for the thinking, feeling adult he or she will become. We constantly talk about how precious children are. Funny -- we sure don't treat them that way.

I have to agree.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why Gay Marriage Can't Work

This article about a custody dispute between a gay man and a lesbian couple illustrates the unavoidable differences between same sex couples and opposite sex couples. The basic facts of the case are that a gay man agreed to be a sperm donor for a lesbian couple. When the child was born, the birth mother's civil union partner tried to do a second party adoption and adopt the child. The father of the child balked: He did not want to relinquish all his parental rights.

The father had signed a standard document provided by the IVF facility:

In order to have the in vitro procedure performed at a Connecticut reproductive services facility, the parties had to execute a consent form provided by the facility. In that form, the donor agrees to "give up all rights and claims" to the child conceived from his donation. Neither Browne (the father) nor D’Alleva (the mother) had anything to do with drafting this form, and neither of them sought legal advice as part of the procedure.

However, the birth mother added his name to the birth certificate:
The forms were signed when the sperm was donated in June 2003, but the child was not born until May 2005. Browne was present at the birth, the parties signed the Acknowledgment of Paternity form, and Browne was listed as father on the birth certificate.

The verbal agreement between the man and the couple was described as:
"As a part of their agreement," wrote Judge Riley, "Ms. D’Alleva alleges that she and Ms. Bochain would adopt the child and Mr. Browne and Mr. Piecha ‘would have some type of role as co-guardians,’ that Mr. Browne and Mr. Piecha ‘would have a role as secondary or "fun parents" and that the defendant [D’Alleva] and Ms. Bochain would be the primary parents."

Here is where factual disputes arise. Browne filed an affidavit "which tracks many of the assertions made by the defendant but also differs in some critical respects. He does not assert," wrote Riley, "that the defendant and Ms. Bochain were to adopt the minor child and that his role would be that of a secondary or "fun" parent. He claims that he was told that he would be a legal guardian of the child and that he would have a permanent and significant role in the child’s life."

Unfortunately, found Riley, "All these factual claims by both parties were prior to the sperm donation and none were reduced to writing (other than letters) much less to the format of a legal agreement."

Here is the problem: when a man and a woman marry, any children born to the woman are legally presumed to be the children of her husband. There can be no such presumption of paternity for a same sex couple. At least half of the genetic material must come from outside the couple. Therefore, the individuals need to take specific legal steps to detach the parental rights from the donor and attach parental rights to the birth mother's partner. This case is instructive because those steps were missing and now the adults have to sort out the parental rights, after the child's birth.

Whether the lesbian couple had a civil union or did not have a civil union should have no bearing on whether the sperm donor has parental rights. The crucial question is whether he consented to surrender his rights or not. That has to be established, regardless of the legal relationship between the two women.

An opposite sex married couple does not have to go through these steps, and indeed, should not have to go through these steps. The point of marriage is to attach children to their fathers, so that each child has a legal connection with both of his biological parents.

There is no relationship the state can create that will give same sex couples the same automatic presumption of parentage. I have heard people try to slip this one by: same sex marriage can be the same as opposite sex marriage if we just change the "Presumption of paternity" to a "presumption of parentage." This case shows why that rhetorical equation does not work. It is not in anybody's interest for the adults to try a skip the steps involved in detaching parental rights from the father and reattaching them to the mother's partner.
That is why we need two distinct sets of legal institutions, one for same sex couples, one for opposite sex couples. Trying to shoe-horn same sex couples into an institution designed for opposite sex couples will not serve either group well in the end.
Cross-posted at marriage debate.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dear Abby Misses the Boat

I read this column over my Raisin Bran last Monday morning, and I haven't been able to put it out of my mind since then. (It's the second letter on the page.)
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married four years. During that time we have had three children. Our youngest was born three months ago with various medical problems including heart defects, enlarged kidneys, hearing problems and Down syndrome.
To top it off, I have recently been diagnosed with cancer. I start radiation and chemo next month. I am stressed to say the least, and being intimate with my husband right now is at the bottom of my list of things I need to do.
My husband is having a problem understanding why I am not interested in sex. He takes it personally when I don't accept his advances. I love him very much, and I'm grateful for everything he does for me and the kids, but right now I have no interest in sex. How can I get through to him without hurting his feelings? And how do I stop the advances so I don't feel so guilty? -- STRESSED IN WISCONSIN

There are many possible ways to interpret this heartbreaking, truly difficult situation. The key question is: how do you interpret the husband's desire for sex? Let's look at how Abby handles it.
DEAR STRESSED: Excuse me? You've had three children in four years, you're caring for a newborn with physical and developmental disabilities and you're beginning treatment for a life-threatening illness. Frankly, I'm surprised you are still standing.

If necessary, drag your spouse to your OB/GYN, your pediatrician and your oncologist. Your husband may be the father of three, but he needs to learn the facts of life -- the first of which is that right now, you are physically and emotionally distracted and unable to perform as he would wish.

Abby interprets the husband as being sex-crazed, immature and selfish. An easy call right out of the feminist playbook. What if there is a different interpretation? There is absolutely nothing in this letter to suggest that he is abusive or inattentive in any way. Let's give the man the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume this is an example of the Gender Divide over the meaning of sex.

Men quite often view sex as a way to show their love and to feel loved. That is why they take it personally when their wives say no. They feel unloved, and they don't know how else to show their love.

Look at what the husband is going through: he has the sole financial responsibility for 5 people, including a seriously disabled child. He may lose his wife to cancer. He may be physically healthy, while his wife is sick. But they are both stressed.

One possible interpretation of the man's desire for sex is that it his way of showing love and feeling love. When I showed this column to my husband, his response was immediate, "He is probably scared to death that he is going to lose his wife. He is trying to cling to her, in fear and desperation."

A more constructive approach than the one Abby offered, in my opinion, would be for the wife to express her appreciation to him. Tell him directly, simply, "I really don't have the energy to be sexual with you." Then ask him: what would make you feel loved right now? It would also be a good thing if one or both of them just said simply: "I'm scared we're going to lose each other. I'm scared that our days of holding and touching each other are numbered." Often, that willingness to be vulnerable has a way of breaking down the barriers and allowing real intimacy to happen.

In these kinds of situations, both members of the couple are driven to their limits, physically, emotionally, probably financially too. She needs him. He needs her. The relationship is in deficit. You might call it a Love Deficit. They each need extra love, at exactly the moment the other person is most needy and unable to give. They need help from outside. They need to enlist friends and neighbors and relatives to help give them some extra time so they can take physical and emotional care of themselves and each other. They need to be finding ways to stay close to each other. Back rubs, foot massages, just holding each other.

If they have any spirituality at all, this would be a good time to pray. The infinite love of God is always there for us, supporting us. This is a time to draw on that love. (I talk about this in one of my books. I forget which one right now.)

I ask my readers to pray for this couple.

French claim European fertility prize

France now has the highest fertility rate in Europe.
With 1.98 children per woman, France's fertility rate is now ahead of Ireland on 1.90, according to the latest government figures, and well above the European Union average of 1.52.

Babies born to unmarried couples represented 50.5 of all French births in 2007, compared to 48.4 percent the previous year and merely 5.9 percent in 1965, according to the French national statistics institute INSEE.
Sociologist Irene Thery told Le Parisien newspaper this was the "logical outcome of a major revolution... Gradually, it's the child who has come to make the family, not the marriage."

France's leap back up the fertility table began in 1993, back when its fertility was only 1.66 children per woman, although it still falls just short of the 2.07 children per woman needed for generations to be replaced.

Pro-birth public policies, including universal public schooling from the age of three, and the relative affordability of childcare for infants are credited in part with the increase in fertility.

With a total of 816,500 babies born last year, France's fertility rate has dipped slightly since 2006, however, when it passed the symbolic mark of two children per woman.

Child-bearing has been separated from marriage, and the state has taken over responsibility for child support. One thing not mentioned is the relative fertility rates of European French and the African Muslim population of France. I once speculated on this difference in print. I was quickly slapped down by people who pointed out that the French don't keep statistics separated by race or national ancestry. In the US, for instance, we know that the fertility of Blacks and Hispanics is higher than non-Hispanic whites. We also know that college-educated white women have fertility rates around 1.7, well below the national average of 2.1.

It would be interesting to know the ethic composition of French fertility, but I guess it isn't knowable.

The average age of first-time mothers, rising year on year, stood at 29.8 years.

In this, the French are acting like college educated residents of Massachusetts, which had the highest age at first marriage and first child-birth, the last time I looked.

Aggression is a buzz

This study suggests that mice find aggression a rewarding experience, to which they return voluntarily.
“We learned from these experiments that an individual will intentionally seek out an aggressive encounter solely because they experience a rewarding sensation from it,” Kennedy said. “This shows for the first time that aggression, on its own, is motivating, and that the well-known positive reinforcer dopamine plays a critical role.”

Kennedy is chair of Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development’s special education department, which is consistently ranked as the top special education program in the nation. He is also director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research of Human Development’s Behavior Analysis Clinic.

The full study is not yet available on-line.

Is Same Sex Attraction a Fixed Trait?

This study of 79 women suggests a subtle answer. Money quote:
Women’s definitions of lesbianism appeared to permit more flexibility in behavior than their definitions of heterosexuality. For example, of the women who identified as lesbian in the last round of interviews, 15 percent reported having sexual contact with a man during the prior two years. In contrast, none of the women who settled on a heterosexual label at that point reported having sexual contact with a woman within the previous two years.

“This provides further support for the notion that female sexuality is relatively fluid and that the distinction between lesbian and bisexual women is not a rigid one."

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at I plan to take a look at the full study before commenting further.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bucking the Class Fertility Divide

From the Washington Post:
Demographic data obtained by The Post indicate that in metro areas nationwide, including cities and suburbs, 13 percent of men and 31 percent of women ages 25 to 29 with four-year college degrees have had children, according to an analysis of 2000-06 social survey data from the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center. By contrast, 49 percent of men and 62 percent of women in that age group with less education have had children, according to the analysis by University of Maryland sociologist Steve Martin.

New data from the National Center for Health Statistics also show that college-educated mothers are usually about 30 when they deliver their first child.

This class divide in fertility deserves much more attention that it has gotten. But it is a natural result of the sexual and social norms put into motion by the combination of feminism and contraception. Women who have the horsepower to make something of themselves professionally are under tremendous social pressure to delay child-bearing. Working class and poor women are not under that particular pressure, and tend to have their children younger.
This Washington Post article is about young professional couples who are bucking that trend by having their children in their twenties. The article features some (justifiable) complaining about the limited options of the "mommy track." I've written elsewhere and here that women deserve more flexible career options, especially if we are going to keep our fertility rate at replacement levels. But nestled in with the complaints is this gem:
Talk at home might revolve around the frequency of eating solids and replenishing baby clothes, but the couple said parenthood is giving them a new level of ambition that is sophisticated and rejuvenating. "When you arrange an environment and provide guidance and see that it actually happens, all the things you're working on, it's this feeling of joint accomplishment between me and Liz," Libresco said. "That's this bliss."

Unviersity of Virginia sociologist Steve Nock Marriage in Men's Livesand others make the point that fatherhood increases men's income because it helps make them serious and it increases their ambition. This young couple is experiencing exactly that.

I find the daring of these young parents a hopeful sign. I wish them all the best.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The real meaning of love

From an unlikely source: a Spanish priest talks about his book that connects the crisis in marriage with the crisis in religious vocations. The key to understanding this unlikely connection is that he believes the modern world misunderstands love. Here is the "money quote" as they say.
Father Manglano: Starting with Spinoza, philosophy has proposed a subjective love: Love will be a passion that awakens my happiness because of my relationship with a person with whom there is chemistry, as we tend to say.

Love will come as a sensation that I find in myself. Then, what I love when I say that I love is nothing distinct from myself. In that way, things, love lasts only as long as the sensation lasts. The moment the sensation disappears, or I wake up as a different person, that first love will have died, and on and on. Love understood in this way is necessarily ephemeral.

Nevertheless, other philosophies understand love as something objective: It is the free exercise of loving another person, of uniting myself to him or her.

The "you" is not an opportunity to feel like I'm in love, but rather the "you" is the motive for which I come out of myself to base myself on another vital center, which is the person of the beloved.

Love is "in relation to": I come out of myself and go toward the one who gives to me. Then yes, it is possible to accomplish an eternal love, that is, after all, what all of us would like.

I make an argument similar to this in the closing chapters of Love and Economics

New Pro-life blog from Canada

My friend Andrea Mrozek from the Institute for Marriage and Family Canada has just started a new prolife group blog featuring Canadian women. They are calling it, Pro-Woman, Prolife: Canada Without Abortion, by Choice. This promises to be a very useful resource for ideas and data for smart prolife women worldwide. I've added it to my blog-roll.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Comprehensive Abstinence Education

That's my latest article in The National Catholic Register.
The genius of the Singles for Christ program is that the young people are brought up within a social network of shared expectations. Most of the Singles for Christ were probably Kids for Christ or Youth for Christ. They probably have married parents who are Couples for Christ or widowed grandmothers who are Handmaidens for Christ. When they were teenagers, probably very few went home to empty houses, turned on a TV porn channel, and had unsupervised afternoons after school.

This abstinence program is more than a classroom experience. This is a full way of life that provides young people with an appealing future as part of a married couple.

The lessons are embedded in a community of supportive adults, who expect certain behavior and model that behavior. The adults prepare the young to participate in the adult life of the community, on the community’s terms.

Read it all here.

The Missing Headline: Unmarried Births Rise

My latest article on Mercator Net is here.
Horrors! The teen birth rate rises!

Thus spake the mainstream media when preliminary data from the Centres for Disease Control showed that the teen birth rate rose three per cent in 2006, the first rise since 1991. The mainstream media reacted true to form. They rounded up the usual suspects: abstinence education and those pesky Christian conservatives. If only the media had troubled to examine the whole report, though, they might have noticed a few things that didn’t fit their template of sex-education-good, abstinence-bad.
The unmarried mothers’ birth rate rose over twice as much as the teen birth rate. But the mainstream media did not find this worthy of comment. So, let’s ask ourselves why they choose to emphasize one figure, the increase in teen births, over an increase in unmarried childbearing.

Read it all here.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Comment on Teen Pregnancy

Dear Readers,
I received a comment on my post Sex Ed Failing to Stop Teen Pregnancy. I deleted one comment that was very similar to this one, but used more swearing. I would be very interested in my readers' response to this writer's comment. I will leave the comment up for a week. After that, I will take it down, since it is more vulgar than I think is appropriate.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pro-Active Mom

A Pro-Active Mom in Iowa sold her son's car, and placed this ad in the newspaper:
The ad reads: "OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."

Besides selling the car almost immediately, she has gotten lots of feedback from the ad, all of it positive.
"It's overwhelming the number of calls I've gotten from people saying 'Thank you, it's nice to see a responsible parent.' So far there are no calls from anyone saying, 'You're really strict. You're real overboard, lady.'"

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Barriers to Fertility amd Our Obligations to the Young

Robert Samuelson is absolutely right in today's column. The next generation faces an increasing proportion of the Federal budget that goes to pay the expenses of retired workers. We can't go on like this. These costs amount to a massive barrier to fertility for the next generation:

Our children face a future of rising taxes, squeezed -- and perhaps falling -- public services, and aging -- perhaps deteriorating -- public infrastructure (roads, sewers, transit systems). Today's young workers and children are about to be engulfed by a massive income transfer from young to old that will perversely make it harder for them to afford their own children.

That is, we are signing up to look like Europe.
No major candidate of either party proposes to do much about this, even though the facts are well-known.

Spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- three programs that go overwhelmingly to older Americans -- already represents more than 40 percent of federal spending. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office projects these programs could equal about 70 percent of the present budget by 2030. Without implausibly large budget deficits, the only way to preserve most other government programs would be huge tax increases (about 40 percent from today's levels). Avoiding the tax increases would require draconian cuts in other programs (about 60 percent). Workers and young families, not retirees, would bear the brunt of either higher taxes or degraded public services.

I agree with Samuelson. We need to act now to make the necessary corrections. I am a Baby Boomer. I've been talking about this, and I must say, planning around these facts for my entire adult life. It's time to act.
cross-posted at the acton blog.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Teachers Having Sex with Students

The New York Post reports an increase in the number of teachers having sex with students.
Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon said yesterday that his probers received more complaints and substantiated more cases against school workers in 2007 than in any year since the office was created in 1992....

He attributed the rise in complaints, in part, to his office's getting "a fair amount of publicity over the last several years - so there's an awareness."
...The surge included an 18 percent jump since 2006 in the number of verified cases and a 10 percent climb in total complaints.

Of the cases substantiated in 2007, 95 were sexual in nature, including that of a 22-year-old Bronx school aide accused of having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

My concern is this statement:
In all, Condon last year called for 186 staff members to be put on the Department of Education's list of ineligible workers.

That's nice that they are not eligible to work for the Dept of Ed. But I want to know: how many are in jail? How many were turned over to the police for criminal investigation? If they didn't go to jail, where are they working now?
And will the NY Dept of Ed be held accountable if they go on to abuse other kids?
As a Catholic of the San Diego Diocese, which just settled for millions of dollars over the cover-up of abuse as much as abuse itself, I'm just a little sensitive over the prospect of public schools moving sexually abusive teachers outside of the area of their responsibility, but possibly into someone else's.

Alienation of Affection

Most people don't even know what "Alienation of Affection" means. It is a civil offense which says that if you woo somebody's spouse away, you have done them a wrong and you owe them.
An old statute of that sort was used in this case. A successful businessman impregnated one of his employees. When she divorced her husband, (who was a plumber) he sued the businessman and obtained $750,000 in damages.
The significance of this kind of case:
Marriage is a serious vow.
Violation of the marriage vow inflicts harms on the innocent spouse and
The state recognizes those harms and insists the perpetrator make restitution.
The threat of being held accountable presumably will provide an incentive for better marital behavior.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

If you are considering divorce....

People contemplating divorce often do not have a realistic view of what is awaiting them. Sometimes, people in my audiences tell me, "if I had known how difficult divorce was going to be, I would have worked harder at my marriage." Here is a truly awful case which illustrates a number of the points I sometimes make about divorce.
1. Divorce does not end conflict. It just transfers the conflict into new arenas. (Actually, I have found this is a great laugh-line when talking to divorce lawyers or family court judges: "Divorce ends conflict." Hysterical, if ironic, laughter.)
In this particular case, Marc and Tonya Herschfus continued to argue for three years after their divorce over the religious upbringing and medical care of their son.
2. The conflict sometimes escalates, as the stakes are higher. In this case, Tonya accused her former husband of abusing their son.
The trial court cited the “numerous post-judgment divorce proceedings” and lawsuits filed by Marc Herschfus against Tonya Herschfus. Tonya Herschfus filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and instigated Marc Herschfus’s arrest on a Friend of the Court (FOC)bench warrant. Jacob was the subject of four Child Protective Services referrals and investigations and was subjected to numerous medical examinations, psychological counseling, and an interview regarding potential sexual abuse.

No evidence of child abuse was ever found.
3. The family court ends up investigating the most personal and detailed aspects of people's lives. When parents can not cooperate, whether they are married or not, the court steps into the middle of their lives. In this particular case, religious practice was one of the issues in dispute:
As part of the divorce settlement, the parties signed a document outlining specific terms for raising Jacob in that religion (the “Upbringing Document”). ... The trial court found that the parties “have different views on how strictly to observe their religion,” such as in relation to driving on holy days. The trial court noted that Marc Herschfus hired a private investigator to follow Tonya Herschfus on holy days in 2006 and caught Tonya Herschfus driving with Jacob. The trial court found that Tonya Herschfus was clearly “attempting to hide the fact that she is driving from [Marc Herschfus]. The message to Jacob, of course, is that it is appropriate to deceive his father.” The trial court noted that the parties also disagreed about the use of kosher food. Tonya Herschfus believed that Marc Herschfus had brainwashed Jacob to read the food labels at her house. She also testified that Jacob refused to eat at her non-Jewish family’s home on Thanksgiving 2006. Tonya Herschfus testified that Jacob acted “troubled and withdrawn” even
after she promised that she would only give him kosher foods.
The trial court found that Jacob was in turmoil given the different religious observances of his parents. The rules at Marc Herschfus’s home and Jacob’s religious school were inflexible, while Tonya Herschfus was more lax, causing him “substantial stress.” Jacob sought “structure and guidance” but felt “conflict and divided loyalty.” Jacob’s school principal testified that Jacob is a “loner,” “hyper and easily angered,” and the other children tease him. At the age of five, Jacob already saw a therapist to deal with stress and anxiety.

Notice that these kinds of issues are usually none of the government's business. We don't ordinarily invite agents of the state to examine these kinds of issues within our families. Because parental cooperation has broken down, the state gets drawn into these intimate matters, which ought properly be none of the government's businss. The court went to great lengths to emphasize that each parent could practice any relgion they wanted, but that they were compelled to comply with their agreement. (I originally found this case in a blog that does religious freedom issues.)
4. There is some evidence that custodial fathers are more apt to foster healthy relationships with mothers than the reverse. (See Warren Farrell's book,Father and Child Reunion on this point.) This case illustrates this.
The trial court noted that Dr. Okla opined that Marc Herschfus was “more likely to foster a positive relationship” than Tonya Herschfus. ... The trial court further noted that Dr. Okla testified that Tonya Herschfus had an “inappropriate affect” when discussing the sexual abuse allegations, was suspicious of Marc
Herschfus, prevented Jacob from having a comfortable relationship with Marc Herschfus, may have coached Jacob to make allegations against Marc Herschfus, and made inappropriate remarks in front of the child. To the contrary, Dr. Okla found Marc Herschfus to be appropriately concerned and less angry than Tonya Herschfus, although he was worried, frustrated, and anxious.

5. Not only did this mother make false accusations of child abuse, she also accused her husband of domestic violence, a charge which was never substantiated.
During the current custody hearing, Tonya Herschfus claimed that she sees a therapist because of domestic abuse she suffered at the hands of Marc Herschfus. She testified that Marc Herschfus is angry and intimidating, and that she is afraid of him. Tonya Herschfus secured a personal protection order against Marc Herschfus during the initial divorce proceedings; however, the trial court noted that
domestic violence was not “a significant issue” at that time. Marc Herschfus denies that he ever abused Tonya Herschfus and claims that Tonya Herschfus assaulted him during one of Jacob’s doctor appointments.The upshot of this case: In the absence of parental cooperation with each other, the court modified the custody agreement to give primary custody to the father, rather than shared custody. As far as I can tell, the court levied no penalty against the mother for her false allegations of child abuse and domestic violence.

Huge Rally Held for Marriage in Madrid

"Tens of thousands" rallied in Madrid in favor of traditional marriage.

Tens of thousands of Spaniards filled downtown Madrid Sunday in a rally called to defend family values in a country where the Socialist government has angered the Roman Catholic church by legalizing gay marriage and making it easier for couples to divorce.
The crowd roared when Pope Benedict XVI appeared on giant television screens in a live hookup from St. Peter's Square and praised them for holding the event.

My speech at the Acton Institute this past week actually dealt with the fact that Socialists around the world have made dismantling the family a central part of their agenda. Engels argued way back in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State that monogamy is the original class struggle, with the man as the bougeois and the woman as the proletariat. After my speech, someone in the audience pointed out that the Spanish Socialist party had pretty much left the economy alone. There isn't much political payoff in blowing up the economy. But the Socialists have made changes in marriage among their first and highest priorities. Hence this opposition rally by the proponents of marriage as one man, one woman, for life.
A video of my talk is available at the Acton site.

Sex Ed Failing to halt teen pregnancy

That is the headline in the UK Telegraph. I can't help but think that the US media would have had a slightly different "slant" on this story.

For example, here is the lead of the UK story:
Every year, almost 50,000 girls under 18 fall pregnant, leading critics to claim that government-led efforts to encourage safer sex are backfiring. The number who conceive is at its highest level since a multi-million-pound teenage pregnancy crackdown almost a decade ago.

As a result, Britain tops the league table of teenage mothers in western Europe, despite also having a record number of school-age abortions.

This comes despite the Government investing more than £150 million in an attempt to stem the tide of conceptions - and pledging to cut teenage pregnancy rates by half by the end of this decade.

I can't imagine reading this analysis in a mainstream US paper:
Amid a rising teenage population, the conception rate has dropped by only 11 per cent since 1998, in stark contrast to the 50 per cent target. At the same time, the overall number of teenage pregnancies has gone up to more than 47,000 a year.

In the 1970s, rates were similar across western Europe, but while other states have had marked success in bringing down the numbers of pregnancies, Britain now has the highest teenage birth rate: six times that of Holland, four times that of Italy and three times higher than in France.

Government policies aimed at dealing with the problem have allowed girls to obtain standard contraceptive and morning-after pills at school, without the consent of their parents, while new proposals will allow them to go directly to pharmacists.

In the US, the media typically blame similar statistics on those dreaded abstinence educators.
Here are some of the experts quoted in the UK story:
Last night, critics said that Labour's policies had backfired and made girls feel increasingly under pressure to become sexually active at a younger age. Others expressed fears that national targets were powerless in the face of a popular culture in which youth was increasingly sexualised.

Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust charity, said that the Government had allowed the "systematic removal of every restraint that used to act as a disincentive to under-age sex". There was no evidence that easy availability of contraception reduced teenage pregnancy rates, instead it added to pressure on young girls by normalising under-age sex, he said.

Mr Wells also attacked the Government's commitment to confidentiality policies about contraception which "kept parents in the dark about their children's sexual activity".

"The problems associated with teenage pregnancy will never be solved so long as the Government persists with its reliance on yet more contraception and sex education," he said. "What we need is a radical change away from a culture which has reduced sex to a casual recreational activity."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said that the Government's failure was rooted in an attempt to find "state-led solutions" to problems that needed to be tackled by families and communities. "Our research has shown that progress is only being made in the areas where people are relatively well-off, whereas in deprived areas the situation is often getting worse.

"What we actually need is for family-led organisations, and local communities and the voluntary sector to work together on these problems."

Anne Atkins, a social commentator, said the emphasis on sex education and contraception was giving young people the message that sex at a young age was inevitable. "The message may be intended to be 'when you have sex, use a condom', but what young people hear is the 'when you have sex' part," she said.

I wish we got this kind of coverage in the US.

States Create Sperm Donors

The new social institution of the anonymous sperm donor is completely the creation of the government. This case from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania proves that beyond any shadow of a doubt. In this case, a woman asked a friend to donate sperm to her, on the understanding that he would not be a father to the child: he wouldn't ask for visitation or other parental rights, and she woudl not ask for child support. By the time the child was 5 years old, the mother changed her mind and asked for child support. The PA Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling, and decided that the man did not owe child support. The court ruled that the couple's verbal contract was binding.
This case is interesting because the court's argument makes it very clear that couples could not and would not contract for donor sperm unless they were assured that the state would create a separation between the members of the couple.
Assuming that we do not wish to disturb the lives of the many extant parties to anonymous, institutional sperm donation, we can only rule in Mother’s favor if we are able to draw a legally sustainable distinction between the negotiated, clinical arrangement that closely mimics the trappings of anonymous sperm donation that the trial court found to have existed in this case and institutional sperm donation, itself.

...however, we can discern no principled basis for such a distinction. Moreover, even if, arguendo, such a distinction were tenable, it would mean that a woman who wishes to have a baby but is unable to conceive through intercourse could not seek sperm from a man she knows and admires, while assuring him that he will never be subject to a support order and being herself assured that he will never be able to seek custody of the child. Accordingly, to protect herself and the sperm donor, that would-be mother would have no choice but to resort to anonymous donation or abandon her desire to be a biological mother, notwithstanding her considered personal preference to conceive using the sperm of someone familiar, whose background, traits, and medical history are not shrouded in mystery. To much the same end, where a would-be donor cannot trust that he is safe from a future support action, he will be considerably less likely to provide his sperm to a friend or acquaintance who asks, significantly limiting a would-be mother’s reproductive prerogatives. There is simply no basis in law or policy to impose such an unpleasant choice, and to do so would be to legislate in precisely the way Mother notes this Court has no business doing.

Moreover, we cannot agree with the lower courts that the agreement here at issue is contrary to the sort of manifest, widespread public policy that generally animates the courts’ determination that a contract is unenforceable. The absence of a legislative mandate coupled to the constantly evolving science of reproductive technology and the other considerations highlighted above illustrate the very opposite of unanimity with regard to the legal relationships arising from sperm donation, whether anonymous or otherwise.

Given that the state already permits anonymous sperm donation, I think this case is properly decided. Contrary to the Court's statement, I can think of several good policy reasons why the "would-be mother's reproductive prerogatives" should be curtailed.

Children have a natural right to have a relationship with their fathers. The state has no business separating mothers and fathers from each other, and children from their fathers. We should not assume that every woman has a right to have a baby, just because she wants one. And if a woman wants to "seek the sperm of a man she knows and admires," public policy ought to be to encourage her to marry him, not cook up alternative contracts with him that allow them to deconstruct the parental relationship.

I think we should begin having a debate on exactly these questions.
Cross-posted at the Marriage Debate blog.