Small Families, Helicopter Parenting, and the Fear of Children Being Children

Monday, August 4, AD 2014

Matt Archbold shared a story that is simultaneously humorous and quite sad.

My wife and I recently attended a sports banquet for one of our kids’ sports teams at a local restaurant. It was one of those events that I wanted to go to about as much as I wanted to get three teeth pulled. But my wife assured me it would be fun. I didn’t believe her but I came anyway.

We’ve gone to so many of these things as my five kids are all on at least three sports teams. All the kids sat together at a very long table and all the parents sat at another table with the coaches. I have a theory about sports teams, the worse a team is the more coaches it has. And this team had lots of coaches.

We were seated with about eight coaches and some parents we didn’t really know.

So what’s the first thing someone we don’t really know will bring up as a conversation starter? Well, it’s the only thing they know about us which is that we have five kids. This one coach said he knew it was us when we arrived because he saw all five of our kids walking in. “That could only be the Archbolds,” he laughed.

The mom directly across from me, who I didn’t really know and hadn’t seen at many games, leaned in conspiritorially and asked, “Who has five children? I’d kill myself if I had that many kids.”

Go to the link to read the rest of the story. The key statement comes here:

The woman, however, didn’t appear to appreciate my little joke and continued that she thought it was irresponsible to have that many children because you couldn’t possibly give enough attention to five kids. She then went on to explain all the things her child is involved in from soccer to piano to basketball to a reading club to field hockey.

Though the Zummo family exceeded the culturally acceptable family size last October with the birth of our third daughter, I must say that we have fortunately not had many if any encounters with such negative people. I have heard the occasional expression of incredulity from parents of one or two children, but nothing approaching the sentiments expressed by this individual.

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13 Responses to Small Families, Helicopter Parenting, and the Fear of Children Being Children

  • Thanks be to God for large families.
    A large family a century ago might of been fourteen or so, however today the objection to families with five or more children is disheartening. A close friend of ours has eight children, and homeschools another seven children.
    He is a humble man earning a modest wage, yet the children never are in want.
    Especially when it comes to parental love. I’m in awe of their love for God neighbor and their children.
    God bless you parents that are frowned upon by the politically (in)correct types.

  • “I have been following Lenore Snenazy’s blog Free Range Kids for some time, and every day it seems she relates yet another story about a parent going to jail because their child was found – GASP – at the playground by herself or locked in the car for all of ten minutes”

    Astonishing how the world has changed in five decades. Back in the Sixties in the summer in my town kids were kicked out of their houses at 7:00 AM, fed at noon, and then kicked back out until supper. We were left to amuse ourselves with the neighborhood kids with nary an adult in screaming distance. My brother and I at seven were walking to grocery stores up to a mile away to buy items for our parents. I emphasize that none of this was at all unusual. This used to be how life was and I am very glad that I was raised in that environment, including lots of chores, that taught me at an early age to be self-sufficient, resourceful and how to deal with others without Mommie and Daddie running interference for me. We have managed as a society to foul up the simplest things that prior generations had no difficulty doing with ease.

  • “What do we do with precious possessions, especially those that cost a decent amount of money? Don’t we treat them with gentle care?”

    Reasonable care, yes.

    Now, I suppose my most valuable possessions are my horses (and I love them dearly), but if I were so nervous of an injury to them, or me, that I never jumped them, hunted them, rode point-to-point, then why have horses at all?

  • It seems the anti life mentality goes along with an anti- child mentality. Listen to the commentators and jokers about how terrible it is to be -horror of horrors- on a plane with small children on board.

  • Anzlyne , part of the problem small children have on an airplane has to do with their parents. I took my two little boys, 6 and 2 to Tampa in June. the 2 year old was scared of the turbulence, which was unavoidable. I invested in a DVD player and got a $5 DVD of the movie Unstoppable (the train that roared through fictional Pennsylvania towns). They were fine.

    We have two boys. We wish we had more, as we lost three to miscarriage, and we may not have anymore. I am nearly 51 and menopause is right around the corner for my wife. I grew up with three brothers. We battled, fought, got hurt and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. My childhood was not very different from Mr. McClarey’s. In May I stared out the window during school. June did not come soon enough. We were outside – riding bikes, swimming, climbing trees, and as we got older did yard work, washed the car, used scrap lumber to build things, etc.
    My dad was a proponent of a longer school year. I am not. Kids need to go outside and be kids during the summer. More than likely they will spend a lifetime indoors, from school to work.

    I have worked for over 25 years in an office setting. Rare is the coworker I have encountered with more than two kids. Frequently encountered is the married childless coworker.

  • Very well said, Mr. Zummo (and Mrs. Zummo (and certainly with input from Misses Zummo, Zummo, and Zummo)).

  • Silly Paul, you have no idea how the nightmare is just beginning

    My parents wanted 3-4 children but, alas because of health reasons I ended up being their only one. I myself will seem to never be a father (I really would have liked to have 2 or 3 by now) so yes, sometimes I (and others I know) feel a bit angry at those who throw away the “extra” children they might have had when some families would gladly take more.

    I’d be interested to see if there’s any correlation between the helicoparents and the houses they were raised. If I was to venture a guess, I’d say maybe they were raised in single households and so felt deprived of affection (and want to be sure their child does not). It seems odd because life was once so much more fragile (I read how President Coolidge lost his son when the boy was playing tennis and got a blister – TENNIS!) – perhaps that’s why heaven and faith was so infused in society, because we missed everyone so much. Nowadays if your mom permits, you’ll be highly likely to live and make it to adulthood, yet parents act so frightened as if blisters still had a chance to be fatal. A side effect of the loss of culture saturation in faith and the afterlife? I don’t know. Maybe the answer is all of the above.

  • My mom was one of 18. (there are 3 left)

    The older ones looked after the younger ones.

    They grew up loving freedom and hating big govt. crybabies and nannies.

  • Nate Winchester wrote, “life was once so much more fragile…”
    “Sir, replied Dr. Slop, it would astonish you to know what improvements we have made of late years in all branches of obstetrical knowledge, but particularly in that one single point of the safe and expeditious extraction of the fœtus,——which has received such lights, that, for my part (holding up his hand) I declare I wonder how the world has——I wish, quoth my uncle Toby, you had seen what prodigious armies we had in Flanders.” (Tristram Shandy, by Laurence Sterne c XLIII (1759))

  • Before pornography became free speech, before abortion freed individuals of parental responsibility, before atheism became a religion, before the Ten Commanments were torn from their post, before the Person of God was evicted from His Creation, people were free to enjoy life.
    Before ritilin was forced on children to make them look happy, before parents were excluded from their children’s upbringing, except to take the blame, children had a happy life, to dream, to plan, to create. Children had fun.

  • I’m one of seven & my poor Mom would be in the slam. If I were moping about the house she would tell me, “Go out and play, ride your bike!” sending me off in the dangerous world (horrors!) possibly never to return.
    Of course, in the olden days “it takes a village” had meaning in the true sense. Any misbehavior on my part would be reported back to my folks at the speed of sound.
    It was considered fine to leave an older sibling to babysit the younger.
    It was expected that kids would get their share of bumps and bruises, maybe even a broken bone.
    What a difference a few decades make.

    I think XKCD hits it right on the head:

  • So many people who have few to no kids of their own want to parent yours. Look at how many empty-nesters and 2-1-zeros there are in your legislature. Think about that. Election season is upon us. Vote wisely.

  • Empty nesters don’t care about kids or families?

Demography, Contraception and Fiscal Melt Down

Sunday, February 19, AD 2012


 It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.

George Washington


Mark Steyn at National Review Online, notes that the fiscal lunacy of the Obama administration and the HHS Mandate are linked:


As for us doom-mongers, at the House Budget Committee on Thursday, Chairman Paul Ryan produced another chart, this time from the Congressional Budget Office, with an even steeper straight line showing debt rising to 900 percent of GDP and rocketing off the graph circa 2075. America’s treasury secretary, Timmy Geithner the TurboTax Kid, thought the chart would have been even more hilarious if they’d run the numbers into the next millennium: “You could have taken it out to 3000 or to 4000” he chortled, to supportive titters from his aides. Has total societal collapse ever been such a non-stop laugh riot?

Yeah, right.” replied Ryan. “We cut it off at the end of the century because the economy, according to the CBO, shuts down in 2027 on this path.”

The U.S. economy shuts down in 2027? Had you heard about that? It’s like the ultimate Presidents’ Day sale: Everything must go — literally! At such a moment, it may seem odd to find the political class embroiled in a bitter argument about the Obama administration’s determination to force Catholic institutions (and, indeed, my company and your company, if you’re foolish enough still to be in business in the United States) to provide free prophylactics to their employees. The received wisdom among media cynics is that Obama has engaged in an ingenious bit of misdirection by seizing on a pop-culture caricature of Republicans and inviting them to live up to it: Those uptight squares with the hang-ups about fornication have decided to force you to lead the same cheerless sex lives as them. I notice that in their coverage NPR and the evening news shows generally refer to the controversy as being about “contraception,” discreetly avoiding mention of sterilization and pharmacological abortion, as if the GOP have finally jumped the shark in order to prevent you jumping anything at all.

It may well be that the Democrats succeed in establishing this narrative. But anyone who falls for it is a sap. In fact, these two issues — the Obama condoms-for-clunkers giveaway and a debt-to-GDP ratio of 900 percent by 2075 — are not unconnected. In Greece, 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren — i.e., an upside-down family tree. As I wrote in this space a few weeks ago, “If 100 geezers run up a bazillion dollars’ worth of debt, is it likely that 42 youngsters will ever be able to pay it off?” Most analysts know the answer to that question: Greece is demographically insolvent. So it’s looking to Germany to continue bankrolling its First World lifestyle.

But the Germans are also demographically exhausted: They have the highest proportion of childless women in Europe. One in three fräulein have checked out of the motherhood business entirely. A nation that did without having kids of its own is in no mood to maintain Greece as the ingrate slacker who never moves out of the house. As the European debt crisis staggers on, these two countries loathe each other ever more nakedly: The Greek president brings up his war record against the German bullies, and Athenian commentators warn of the new Fourth Reich. The Germans, for their part, would rather cut the Greeks loose. In a post-prosperity West, social solidarity — i.e., socioeconomic fictions such as “Europe” — are the first to disappear.

The United States faces a mildly less daunting arithmetic. Nevertheless, the Baby Boomers did not have enough children to maintain mid-20th-century social programs. As a result, the children they did have will end their lives in a poorer, uglier, sicker, more divided, and more violent society. How to avert this fate? In 2009 Nancy Pelosi called for free contraceptives as a form of economic stimulus. Ten thousand Americans retire every day, and leave insufficient progeny to pick up the slack. In effect, Nancy has rolled a giant condom over the entire American economy.

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23 Responses to Demography, Contraception and Fiscal Melt Down

  • Obama — our Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning

  • You do know that our total debt as a percent of GDP fell from the end of WW2 until 1980 when our tax policy (not our spending) took a dramatic change. The percentage has since risen except for the 90’s when our tax policy briefly took a minor reversal from their current direction. The direction of the deficit and then the debt changed abruptly again as the tax policy changed in 2001. I know there are going to be many comments claiming it was all about spending, but that is not what the data shows. The relationships between tax policy and the point when the graphs of the current balance and the total debt change direction are clearly related to tax policy. The recent massive debt does have a spending component in that the severe recession we entered in 2008 did cause an increase in spending, but the larger effect was a decrease in tax collections due to the recession.

    I do disagree with the HSS ruling, but if we are going to show charts of rising debt, then we should lay the blame where if belongs. It belongs on our unwillingness to pay for the things we want. We were promised (both nationally and at the state level) that if we cut taxes we would see prosperity and increased . The lowest federal tax rate since WW2 at the federal level has brought massive deficits and the worst 10 years of employment since WW2. A 15 year recorded of increasing tax cuts in Michigan (coupled with the fall of the American auto industry) have devastated our state. At the very least we should stop seeing the claims that tax cuts will improve our economy and increase government revenues as a result since the evidence is to the contrary.

  • Justice and peace!

    Obama’s policies are destroying the evil, unjust private sector.

    It’s working.

    Pharaoh’s economic reports hide the huge decline in number of Americans with jobs.

    Mark Steyn: Obama, Romney and Santorum are talking about sex while the nation goes broke. Each day, 10,000 Americans retire but “leave insufficient progeny to pick up the slack. In effect, Obama has rolled a giant condom over the entire American economy.”

    America can’t employ more people.

    In 30 years, there will not be enough taxpayers to pay for the entitlement masses, $100,000,000,000,000.00 present value of cash flow due. Taxes won’t cover interest on the national debt.

    Then, grandpa will be left out in the cold.

    Justice and peace!

  • “The lowest federal tax rate since WW2 at the federal level has brought massive deficits and the worst 10 years of employment since WW2.”

    Complete hogwash Paul. No possible jacking up of the tax rates can possibly pay for our completely out of control entitlement spending, which is apparently insatiable. Your argument would have a tinge of merit if the European welfare states, paying higher taxe rates than we do, were not also on the same quick path to national bankruptcy.

  • And for those who might still labor under the illusion that congress and this admin-
    istration are in any way serious about this situation, please reflect on the fact that it
    has been almost three years since the federal government has had a budget.

  • No possible jacking up of the tax rates can possibly pay for our completely out of control entitlement spending, which is apparently insatiable.

    Federal spending is currently about 24% of domestic product. There is a mess of junk in the federal budget that ought to be excised, but that is a policy choice. We could certainly levy the taxes necessary to pay for it.

  • ‘The Obama administration is the perfect avatar for the all consumed in self mentality produced by a contraceptive culture that can see no further than the brief span of time this globe is occupied by those who currently inhabit it.’ Yup.

    George Washington’s quote ends with their choice – to stamp misery on ages yet unborn.

    Laughing at religion and conscience like silly jokers, talking about sex enough to train the needy national psyche away from their sleight of hand, and accommodating no one but their handlers with money.

    ‘ and leave insufficient progeny to pick up the slack. In effect, Nancy has rolled a giant condom over the entire American economy.’ As she said on the video, something like uh – more bang for the buck – er – that’s what the economists say.

  • The United States faces a mildly less daunting arithmetic. Nevertheless, the Baby Boomers did not have enough children to maintain mid-20th-century social programs.

    For the record, postwar birth cohorts have varied between 2.9 million and 4.3 million, with no secular trend in size. Our total fertility rate has been at replacement level or above for that entire time bar a brief run of years in the late 1970s. Escalating burdens of caring for the elderly have been a function of improved life expectancy, a problem which can be finessed by having the retirement age on an appropriate escalator.

  • To pay for entitlements Art would require doubling tax rates. Not only is that politically inconceivable, the impact on our economy can be imagined.

  • Since the late Fifties Art, the rate of fertility has declined from 3.8 children per woman to 2.06 today. 2.10 is considered to be the replacement rate, and since 2000 we have been at that for only one year: 2008.

  • Given the Pelosi pic, I think a better title for the post should have been– “Demography, Comtaception, and Facial Meltdown.”. After all, the Pelosi facelifts are taxpayer supported.

  • Don, please tell me what I said that is hogwash. The federal tax revenues are the lowest as a percentage of GDP since WW2. The 10 years of employment since 2001 (when the income tax rates were cut followed by tax cuts on capital gains and dividends) are the worst since WW2. I could give you numerous links including the federal government’s budget page. Also, do you deny that our budget was in surplus before the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003?

    As for entitlements, the problem continues to be Medicare, yet every proposal to fix the problem by doing what has been successful in every other country is rejected in this one.
    As compared to the European welfare states please the chart below. The data is sorted by the larges Debt as a percentage of GDP by country. Of the welfare states in Europe that have economies comparable to the US, you could only rank Italy as having a higher debt burden than the US. And only the UK has come anywhere close to the US in the increase of debt from 2000 to 2010 (I included the 2009 numbers to demonstrate that this did not all occur under President Obama). The problem in Europe is that they decide to include countries like Greece in the Euro zone and Germany absorbed East Germany. These actions are close to the US agreeing to a common currency with Mexico, this might help Mexico but would be a significant burden.

    National debt as a percentage of GDP
    2009 2009-2000 2010 2010-2000
    Japan 197 66 220 89
    Italy 109 2 119 12
    United States 67 22 94.36 49.36
    Germany 73 14 83.96 24.96
    Canada 65 -6 83.95 12.95
    France 80 21 82.33 23.33
    United Kingdom 59 17 75.5 33.5
    India* 66 -4 71.84 1.84
    Brazil* 66 -2 66.84 -1.16
    Spain 56 -7 60.12 -2.88
    China* 32 9 3 3.83 10.83
    South Korea 31 18 33.44 20.44
    Russia* 5 -14 11.75 -7.25

    Sorry to be so long winded in a com box, but I felt the need to respond.

  • Sorry, I spent 20 minutes trying to format the chart and then the columns still did not line up.

  • The pig’s not getting any cleaner Paul. A more pertinent list is that of the total national debt as a percentage of the country’s annual gross domestic product. Go to the link below to view the list.

    The numbers for most of the European nations are especially shocking when consideration is given that they spend next to nothing on defense as compared to the US.

    The idea that the solution to this problem is to raise taxes is simply wrong. The only solution is to radically slash government spending and such a solution will come, probably after the financial crash the West is inevitably headed for.

  • Integrity I wish Obama had some.

  • Don, Still you said my original post was hogwash and make the claim that the answer is not raising taxes. Although I agree the answer is not just raising taxes. Anyone who would claim that the federal government (or any other institution) could not improve it’s efficiency would be silly. However, you have yet to answer what part of The current take of the federal government being the lowest since WW2 or the decade of job performance since the taxes were dropped were “hogwash.” Plus you avoid commenting of the fact that we had a surplus before taxes were cut in the early 2000’s.

  • We did not have a surplus under Clinton Paul. We had the bubble, a Republican Congress and blue smoke and mirrors with social security funds.

    If the Bush tax cuts were completely repealed, we could expect to have around 200 billion a year in additional taxes. The deficit for this year is estimated to be 1.327 trillion dollars. Increasing taxes isn’t even a bandage on the underlying problem of run away entitlement spending.

  • Yes Don, unfortunately when the social security taxes were doubled in the 1980’s President Reagan insisted that SS funds were counted in the deficit calculations. And that did allow the issue that the article points out. It is also true that President Clinton had the advantage of the computer industry expansion and dot com bubble to the income side. But Pres. Clinton does deserve credit for stopping his party from spending the money and he stopped the Republican party from issuing tax cuts instead of responsibly reducing our deficit during good times. If you don’t believe this draw a graph of the current balance of the federal government from 1980 through 2010. It has a point of inflection at two points. In 1993 it changes from constantly going more negative to going less negative. In 2001 it changes from constantly going less negative to going more negative. The curvature did not change when congress changed from Democratic to Republican in 1995, nor did it change when the congress went back again in 2008. It changed when President Clinton gained control of the budget process and it changed again President Bush gained control of the process. There is a lot President Clinton did I do not agree with, and some things I find abhorrent, but if the data does not show you that he was responsible for the improving current balance of the federal budget during the 1990’s than you are choosing not to look.

    By the way, you still have not pointed which of my original comments are “hogwash.” Since this is a nice way of saying I am lying, I wish you would at least attempt to support the claim in some way.

  • To pay for entitlements Art would require doubling tax rates. Not only is that politically inconceivable, the impact on our economy can be imagined.

    Heritage is an advocacy group. They are not necessarily going to be terribly explicit about it that when they speak of the federal income tax they are not discussing the whole menu of federal or state taxes. The federal income tax comprehends about half of all federal tax collections and about a quarter of all tax collections.

    As we speak, the ratio of federal tax collections to domestic product is 0.149. I believe that is lower than it has been at any time in the last 50-odd years. However, there was a revolution in state and local expenditures during the years running from about 1965 to 1975, so total tax collections are not so low, but not abnormal in context.

    Currently, federal expenditures amount to about 24% of domestic product, just a wee bit higher than they were in 1984. (Federal tax collections as a share of domestic product are lower than they were, so public sector borrowing is at this time 9% of domestic product rather than 6% of domestic product). All things being equal, the relative size of the public sector (beyond a certain baseline) is inversely related to measures of economic dynamism. There is a cost to be paid in static utility and in economic vibrancy each time you expand the public sector’s take and that cost has to be taken into account in assessing any proposed program.

    Now, how are we financing this expenditure? We are financing it through a mix of taxation and public sector borrowing. One might expect that it does diminish utility to finance an activity from coerced contributions (taxation) rather than voluntary contributions (borrowing). Keep in mind that the diminution of utility would be some fraction of 9% of domestic product, perhaps expressed in anemic growth rates experienced as the tax increase is imposed (recall that the money is not being invested, but parked in Treasury issues). That is not what you want, but it is not economically devastating either).

    If you wish to make an argument against a particular manifestation of public expenditure, make that argument; there’s plenty to choose from. If you wish to argue that there are perverse incentives encoded into entitlement programs, make that argument. If you wish to make an argument that optimal public expenditure is of a particular dimension, make that argument. What you really ought not to do is contend that it would be economically devastating to maintain a public sector of a given relative size when we have in fact done so for 35 years or more (and other countries have maintained larger such sectors for longer periods).

  • The idea that the solution to this problem is to raise taxes is simply wrong. The only solution is to radically slash government spending and such a solution will come, probably after the financial crash the West is inevitably headed for.

    I think it might benefit you if you have the time to review the Appendix to the Budget of the U.S. Government and the analytical tables (not the executive summaries, which can be misleading). There are clunky pdfs available online. Review it with two notions in mind.

    1. You cannot welsh on debt service;

    2. The elderly and disabled have very limited capacity to adjust to reduced economic circumstances; diminution of benefits to these sectors (that would be Social Security, Medicare, and that portion of Medicaid which finances nursing homes) has to be undertaken quite gradually and is not going to net you much over the course of the next several years.

  • And I would suggest Art that you contemplate the deficits for the last five years and consider this truism: “Something that can’t go on forever will not go on forever.” National public debt is currently at 99% of GDP. Our capacity to finance the government by conjuring money out of thin air is coming to an end and probably sooner rather than later due to an increasing realization that we can never pay off this amount of debt, at least not with a currency that has anything close to its present value. Slow motion debt repudiation, hyper inflation, currency devaluation, whatever it is called, it is eventually going to occur with severe damage to our economy.

  • I am perfectly aware of the problem. However, cessation of public sector borrowing requires:

    1. More revenue; and

    2. Less spending.

    My complaint about your posts on this matter is a deficit of specificity as regards the latter and your insistence that the former cannot occur. There’s quite a mass of bilge in the federal budget. There are roughly 55 independent agencies you could shut down with little damage to the public interest; two cabinet departments that could be shut down with like consequences; a third department which could have its budget cut by >90% with like consequences; and another that could use a 22% cut. The thing is, you pump out the bilge and you still have problems.

    A. Reducing the bloat derived from the structural defects in entitlement programs takes time;

    B. Removing excess spending in legitimate programs requires intensive attention to granular details or requires you make an arbitrary cut and tell the agency chiefs to figure out the details.

    C. Some sorts of cuts will induce or exacerbate fiscal crises in state and local government. Liquidated programs are properly partially replaced with formulaic revenue sharing.

  • Medusa, the Gorgon, is Nancy Pelosi. Medusa had snakes for hair. Nancy Pelosi has snakes (lies) for hair. The sight of Medusa turned men to stone. Nancy Pelosi turns men to stone. Nancy Pelosi gives her son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread and a snake when he asks for an egg. As a public servant, all citizens are constituents of Nancy Pelosi. We, the people, are her public, her national community. Yet, Nancy Pelosi consistently gives us, her constituents, a stone, when we ask for a loaf of bread, and a snake when we ask for an egg. If untruth, or perjury in the public court of law is permissible, then, Nancy Pelosi has handed us, her constituents, a stone when we ask for a loaf of bread and a snake when we ask for an egg.
    In Greek mythology, Perseus slew the vile Medusa by viewing her in the mirror of his shield for if he had looked at Medusa straight away, he would have been turned to stone. Medusa had snakes for hair, the sight of which turned men to stone. Perseus, son of the Greek king of gods, Zeus, separated Medusa’s ugly snake-generating head from her body with his sword. Separating Nancy Pelosi from her snake-generating lies with our vote in November will free us, her constituents, from turning into stone.
    St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. It is time to drive the snakes out of the United States Congress.

That’s What the Bully Pulpit Is For

Tuesday, October 25, AD 2011

Peter Wehner’s getting all nervous because certain Republican candidates are saying things that he disapproves of:

One of the GOP presidential candidates (Ron Paul) believes the United States is responsible for triggering the 9/11 attacks. Another (Rick Santorum) has said he would use the presidential bully pulpit to speak out against the dangers of contraception and its role in the moral decline of America (“One of the things that I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the sexual liberty idea and many in the Christian faith have said, you know contraception is OK. It’s not OK because it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”)

Yet another (Herman Cain), has dramatically shifted his positions on negotiating with terrorists and legalizing abortion within a matter of hours, after having said he would (contra the Constitution) impose a religious test on Muslim Americans. And nowGovernor Rick Perry has indicated he’s not quite sure whether Barack Obama was born in the USA, citing Donald Trump as an authority.

Some of this is correct, but the rest is a mess.  For instance, Perry’s comments seem almost totally aimed at tweaking Obama and nothing more.  Even Paul’s 9/11 theories are a bit more nuanced than Wehner suggests.  As for Rick Santorum, I say good for him.  As Mike Potemera points out, it’s rather unlikely that any conservative president will be “calling for the hiring of millions of contraception cops as a solution to joblessness.”  Santorum would be using the office of president to discuss an important cultural issue.  It’s nothing more than what Michelle Obama has done to encourage efforts to fight against obesity.  There’s nothing wrong with using the bully pulpit to discuss social issues and raise awareness so long as you are not actually calling for legislation that impedes personal liberty.

Santorum continues to be one of the few candidates who gets it, in that he understands the nexus between social and economic issues.  While others have concentrated on narrow technocratic solutions, Santorum has really been the only one to explain how the breakdown of the family is one of the contributing causes of our economic rot.  That’s not to say, by the way, that certain tax and fiscal policies are wrong.  In the end, you can’t quite dictate improved sexual mores through executive fiat , so we do need purely economic solutions to the current mess we’re in.  But at least Santorum is willing to engage in conversation about social issues.  Okay, so perhaps he does so in a manner that comes off as just a bit whiny, but that doesn’t dilute the importance of his message.

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2 Responses to That’s What the Bully Pulpit Is For

  • Thank you for saying this! I will take a winy president who understands his country and its root problems over a professional public speaker who thinks everything is about racism any day! I still say, Santorum 2012!

  • Santorum is at least getting the message out there. Myriads of folks have never even considered that contraception may not be healthy, physically, spiritually or emotionally. At least, as long as he lasts, there is no denying his passion and he speaks the truth.

Does Giving Women a Year’s Supply of The Pill Reduce Abortions?

Monday, February 28, AD 2011

A reader asked me to take a look at this study (abstract here) and see if it reaches a valid set of conclusions. The study was conducted in California among ~80,000 women who receive birth control pills paid for by the state as part of a program for low income women. Previously, women in the program have received a 1 or 3 months supply of birth control at a time, and then have to go in to the clinic in order to receive a refill. In the study, a portion of these women were given a full year’s supply instead of one or three months, and state medical records were then used to see if this resulted in a change in the rate of unplanned pregnancy and abortion among the women who received a full year supply of birth control.

Researchers observed a 30 percent reduction in the odds of pregnancy and a 46 percent decrease in the odds of an abortion in women given a one-year supply of birth control pills at a clinic versus women who received the standard prescriptions for one – or three-month supplies.

The researchers speculate that a larger supply of oral contraceptive pills may allow more consistent use, since women need to make fewer visits to a clinic or pharmacy for their next supply.

“Women need to have contraceptives on hand so that their use is as automatic as using safety devices in cars, ” said Diana Greene Foster, PhD, lead author and associate professor in the UCSF Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. “Providing one cycle of oral contraceptives at a time is similar to asking people to visit a clinic or pharmacy to renew their seatbelts each month.”

Oral contraceptive pills are the most commonly used method of reversible contraception in the United States, the team states. While highly effective when used correctly (three pregnancies per 1,000 women in the first year of use), approximately half of women regularly miss one or more pills per cycle, a practice associated with a much higher pregnancy rate (80 pregnancies per 1,000 women in the first year of use), according to the team. [source]

The details of that decrease are as follows:

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13 Responses to Does Giving Women a Year’s Supply of The Pill Reduce Abortions?

  • Hold on here.

    The study compared women who get a year of pills at once to women who get a few months of pills at a time.

    But you’re trying to answer the question of whether it’s better to give women a year of pills at once, or no pills at all.

    The data about the first question does not really shed light on the second question.

  • Abortion and artificial contraception are both intrinsic evils, so I don’t think this study changes anything.

  • Its hard to know if the study proves anything. I can only access the abstract and have minimal interest in reading the study (if there is desire, I can access via our library). Thus unable to comment on the methods of the study, data collection etc.

    Of interest is the note at the end of the abstract which notes that the Level of Evidence of the study is III.

    To put this in perspective, Level I is a randomized, controlled trial. II non-randomized , cohort studies etc. III is based on clinical experience, expert opinion or descriptive studies. I is the gold standard for clinical work, II okay and III pretty weak. Anyone basing practice changes on a level III evidence is going to be laughed at.

    I think that begins to put the study in perspective.

  • Bearing,

    Hold on here.

    The study compared women who get a year of pills at once to women who get a few months of pills at a time.

    But you’re trying to answer the question of whether it’s better to give women a year of pills at once, or no pills at all.

    Ummmm. Not sure if I got massively unclear while trying to type this up quickly or what, but no.

    I was basically asked, “Can you debunk this, or else what should we pro-lifers make of this,” to which the one sentence version of my reply would be, “It looks to me like it’s probably accurate as far as it goes, so from the point of view of agencies already giving out birth control perhaps they should give out more at a time, but I think the pro-life contribution here would be to work to ban abortion and to make people aware of the connection between sex and babies — not to become cheerleaders for one year prescriptions.”


    To put this in perspective, Level I is a randomized, controlled trial. II non-randomized , cohort studies etc. III is based on clinical experience, expert opinion or descriptive studies. I is the gold standard for clinical work, II okay and III pretty weak. Anyone basing practice changes on a level III evidence is going to be laughed at.

    Thanks, that helps a lot.

  • Kyle Kanos is absolutely correct.

    Truly, only the dead have seen the end of abortion in this country.

  • Ah, but it only reduces the abortions we “know” about. The pill is strongly suspected of being an abortafacient–preventing an embryo (not fertilised egg) of implanting in the uterus. While a one year supply of the Pill may reduce surgical abortions, we don’t know if it reduces the number of deaths of embryos whose existence is hidden to us because modern day pregnancy tests are not yet sensitive enough to detect them. Only God knows. (And do we want to irritate more than He probably already is?)

    We also need to remember that “pro-life” is not simply “anti-abortion,” and no, I am not talking about the seamless garment issue so many Pro-lifers do not appreciate. It is in having children. As I recall, Europe has fewer abortions than the US, but it also has a much lower birth rate. Some countries are already on the down hill slide. Euthanasia of the elderly and very sick is right at the doorstep. In some countries, it is a reality. There are not enough young people to go around.

    As Kyle Kano noted, contraception is intrinsically evil. Ultimately, not sure this study matters whether valid or not.

  • KJLarsen,

    Agree. But if pro-aborts start pointing to this study, then we are able to point out the design flaws and undermine their argument. We must be able to engage the world on its terms including all valid knowledge.

  • Kyle Kanos,

    Certainly, I agree that using birth control is a major sin — I would never advise someone to do so. Indeed, I would tell everyone not to do so. However, if a doctor is prescribing birth control, and a patient is taking it, it sounds to me like (if the results of this study actually proved out — it sounds like all that exists right now is an observed correlation) it might, overall, be better if the doctor prescribed a large run of The Pill rather than a small one.

    I would certainly consider it to be sinful to be using birth control, but if someone is going to commit that sin I would be at least somewhat inclined to think that it is better to use it right than not.

    I’m a bit divided on this because clearly, although the contraceptive failures resulting from people taking the pill inconsistently when their prescriptions gap out result in a number of abortions, they result in significantly more lives that are in fact embraced and spared. According to the study, 300 abortions might have been avoided if the pill had been used consistently by the members of the study — but then, so would have 1300 live births.

    So I’m not really sure what our reaction, as Catholics should be to that other than that we continue to:

    a) oppose sex outside of marriage and the use of contraception and
    b) oppose abortion


    My understanding from what I’ve read on the topic is that it’s fairly rare for the standard methods of oral contraception (as opposed to the strictly abortafacient “Plan B” kind of stuff) to allow an egg to be fertilized but then prevent it from implanting. It does happen, and it’s one of the many reasons to morally object to The Pill, but from what I’ve read it’s the sort of thing that would happen perhaps once every few years (if even that often) assuming that a woman is using the pill consistently and having sex quite regularly. So it seems to me that it’s virtually impossible that in this particular situation there are enough unrecorded abortions being performed by the pill to make up for the number that are resulting form inconsistent use of the pill.

    Obviously, that does not mean that we as Catholics should advocate that people use the pill — that’s a mortal sin and I would never recommend it. I just wanted to try to address the study as honestly as possible, and I think that means admitting that it is probably the case, if the study is in fact statistically valid, that dispensing a year of birth control at a time does result in fewer abortions (though also many more live births!) than dispensing 1-3 months at a time.

    Certainly, that doesn’t make the pill good. Lots of heinous things would reduce the number of abortions that a given group of women had. (For instance, if California had forcibly sterilized all 80,000 women, they would have had exactly zero abortions, but that certainly wouldn’t have made the action of sterilizing them right or desirable.)

  • I can’t support the use of birth control pills, but knowing they are dispensed and used – often times month over month for years or decades, I have a hard time accepting the practice of requiring someone to return the doctor monthly or quarterly to get a refill. It’s not like a doctor ever says, “well hey, you’ve been on these for six months I better wean you off now.” He simply scribbles out a new script, collects his $50, and sends on her on the way to the pharmacy. How much more expensive is health care than it should be because doctors and the FDA perpetuate this racket?

  • Abortions from the Pill? Funny, I heard the opposite. I think it was Chris Kahlenborn (sp?) MD that wrote that he calculated 10 million per year. I would have to do some digging to find that one though.

    I do agree that refuting the study is important. Alas, I only know of very few pro-lifers who think contraception is evil.

  • What this study doesn’t do is suggest how much of an impact giving out larger quantities of contraceptives will have on the overall abortion rate. According to Guttmacher, only a little over 5% of women procuring abortions report that they lack access to contraceptives for financial or other reasons. So achieving a significant reduction in abortions while continuing to promote contraceptives will require not just providing them, but changing people’s behavior (which can include using contraceptives at all, using them more consistently or correctly, using multiple instead of single methods, avoiding sex when they’re fertile if not using a contraceptive, etc.) Aside from the fact that every time I’ve ever suggested that people change their behavior regarding sex I’ve been summarily execrated, I’m not aware of any study that has shown that people who already have access to contraceptives can be made to change their behavior enough to have a meaningful effect on the overall abortion rate. And you also can’t ignore the fact that over 7% of those procuring abortions report using contraceptives perfectly, for whom decreasing the abortion rate lies along a different path altogether.

  • If you want to email me, I can send you a copy of the full article for a more thorough reading.

Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 4 & Conclusion)

Monday, July 26, AD 2010

[Continued from Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3]

NFP and the Contraceptive Mentality

In concluding this series, I’d like to address the question which originally set me on on this overly extended journey: Is it possible for users of Natural Family Planning to have a “contraceptive mentality” and if so what does that mean in the context of NFP?

I’ve described the contraceptive mentality as: The idea that having sex and reproducing are two activities with no necessary connection, that having sex in no way suggests a desire or willingness to have children with the person you are having sex with.

At root, I think that NFP is formulated in such a way as to be in direct opposition to the contraceptive mentality. According to an understanding of sexuality rooted in human instinct and biological reality, the way to avoid conceiving children is to not have sex. This is also the means of avoiding conception which is considered acceptable by the Church in the context of its understanding of the moral nature of sexuality. NFP is considered morally acceptable by the Church for the reason that it consists of avoiding pregnancy by not having sex, with the modern refinement of allowing the married couple to understand with a certain degree of confidence when it is that they need to avoid having sex in order to avoid conception. Rather than abstaining all the time in order to avoid pregnancy, the couple can abstain for between a quarter and half out of the woman’s cycle, and achieve the same result with relative certainty.

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4 Responses to Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 4 & Conclusion)

  • Isn’t it true that the self denial is linked to income and increases with lower and lower income? Indeed the very rich Catholic of the level of a Mel Gibson (cited here only for the income and number of children aspect) do not even have to resort to NFP nor do they have to self deny in this area. Far on the other extreme is the poor Catholic in mainland China in those areas wherein the one child policy is brutally enforced so that after one child, the couple can be coerced physically into an abortion if NFP fails in their case for several decades straight. This area is so serious for particularly the Chinese that I will never comprehend how no Pope has worked on this in terms of an ex cathedra encyclical
    to resolve all doubts that arise thus far in the ordinary magisterium. Indeed few Popes have actually written about this (about 8 out of the 265 total) and the ones long ago wrote only fragments. It was more theologians (principally Augustine ( as Fr. Hardin noted) and canon law after several early councils.
    For the high stakes that the Chinese must face, Popes should have made this a priority
    as to facing this area with a view toward an ex cathedra encyclical or admit that they are not sure enough for that level. The rich need not sacrifice in this area but the Chinese couple face enormous fines and forced abortion in some provinces.

  • That should be Fr. Hardon not Hardin for those unfamiliar and wanting to do a search on him.

  • Bill, even for rich Catholics, there are valid other reasons to delay additional children. In Mel Gibson’s case, even if he were still living with his actual wife, his alcoholism could constitute serious reason. I know more than one couple where there is grave mental illness that looks (at least from the outside) as appropriate reason for employing NFP to avoid pregnancy.

    Also, while the general standard of NFP is that you use it to avoid pregnancy “for a time”, that standard is subject to common sense. If the condition that causes the problem that presents serious reason for delaying another child is something that, at least with respect to natural causes, is expected to be permanent, the couple’s use of NFP would be under the same understanding: to avoid pregnancy permanently, unless a miracle solves the problem.

  • Tony
    You are talking of exceptional cases in regard to mental illness. And drinkers like Mel who are rich do not ask what is prudent in this area because they underestimate their problem…since they are bringing in millions.
    Mia Farrow, Madonna, Angelina Jolie…most of the wealthy can have children and adopt also with no practice of birth control or nfp and no self denial…which is the case too with those Catholic who are sterile by nature. There is no encyclical telling the naturally sterile to abstain. Work stress by nature limits over doing this area unless there is the rare mental disorder around this issue.
    And on top of that, Angelina Jolie gave to Haiti 4 times the donation amount of money that the Vatican gave to Haiti. That is real wealth.

    All couples in parts of China have the exact opposite situation on a non exceptional basis. After one child they must use something to prevent a second child which will be killed in some provinces. Yet Scripture told some of the more passionate ones… “it is better to marry than to burn” …(with desire).

Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 3)

Tuesday, June 29, AD 2010

[Continued from Part 1 and Part 2]

Enter Artificial Birth Control

In Part 2, I discussed the sense in which marriage customs and sexual morality can be seen as an adaptive response to controlling childbearing. I’d like now to turn to the question of artificial birth control.

In my first job out of college, a small chemical distribution company, I sat next to the customer service group, and thus found myself overhearing a lot of middle-aged “girl talk”. One anecdote I particularly remember was recounted by a woman who’d married in the late sixties. She told about how when she and her husband were still engaged, she’d gone with her mother to a wedding, and her mother had taken occasion to whisper to her that it was generally known that the bride had “had to get married.”

“I’m just so glad you’re a good girl and you’ll never need to get married quickly like that, my mother told me,” she said. “Of course, what she didn’t know is that I’d been on the pill for the last three years.”

I think this does a good job of underlining a massive shift in social structure and morality which the advent of plentiful and efficient birth control allowed.

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Last Weeks Top-Ten Catholic Posts

Sunday, June 27, AD 2010

Here are this past weeks Top-10 most visited Catholic posts from The American Catholic for June 20-26:

1. Parish Shopping by Michael Denton

2. McChrystal Should Be Fired by Donald R. McClarey

3. Sharia in Dearborn? by Donald R. McClarey

4. G.K. Chesterton on Lincoln by Donald R. McClarey

5. Healthcare Reform & the Magisterium by Chris Burgwald

6. Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 2) by Darwin

7. Toy Story 3 by Michael Denton

8. Planned Parenthood, What Happened to the Money? by D.R.M.

9. Under the Roman Sky by Donald R. McClarey

10. I Am Shocked, Shocked! by D.R. McClarey

Honorable Mentioned

Top 25 Catholic Blogs by Technorati Authority by John Henry

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4 Responses to Last Weeks Top-Ten Catholic Posts

Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 2)

Tuesday, June 22, AD 2010

[Continued from Part 1]

Restraint, Relationships and Planning Parenthood

When I say that we “naturally want to avoid having children” at certain times, I would imagine that the image that comes immediately to mind is of birth control, abortion or infanticide, and most traditional societies have seen these in some form or other. However, I’d like to turn our attention to something so basic and so prevalent that we don’t think about it much.

From an anthropological point of view, the entire structure of our romantic and family relationships serves as a way to control childbearing, limiting it to situations in which offspring can be supported. Consider: Requiring that young women remain virgins until marriage ensured that children will not be born without a provider. Nor was the decision to marry, when it came, a strictly individual affair. Marriage was negotiated and approved by the wider families, because the families were in effect committing to help support the new family unit being created. Many cultures also required the husband’s family to pay a “bride price”, not simply as compensation for the lost contribution of the daughter to her own family, but as proof that the husband was of sufficient means to start a family.

Once in place, this set of cultural mores and laws provided an easy way to adjust to want or plenty:

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12 Responses to Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 2)

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  • Chastity is very important both in and outside of marriage.

    “And the set of moral and societal norms surrounding marriage provide us with a way to manage that fact responsibly in order to have children only when we believe we can support them.”

    I agree. But, unfortunately our society’s norms and sense of morality has changed over time leading to a deterioration of family values, which has also in turn led to a break up of the traditional family unit.

    Plus, the Catholic Church has been quite remiss in promoting and teaching proper fertility treatment alternatives to IVF that are in line with Catholic teachings.

    But, Fr. Benedict Groeshel did recently host a show on Catholic fertility for couples with fertility issues.

  • I wondered if you’d mention Ireland. People think of the Irish as baby-crazy, but that has not always been the case as you say.

  • As a cradle Catholic I agree with your assessment. The only thing I don’t agree with is the use of birth control (aka condom) when your married and don’t want children. My spouse is a Medical Doctor and also disagree with the method the church authorized since it is not as full-proof as birth-control or condom. Let me correct myself hormone birth-control we are also against. My question I guess is why is the church against condoms even in marriage?

  • Marriage requires an openness to procreating and condoms inhibit that openness or are a barrier to that openness.

    Here is chart analyzing all forms of contraception and it shows reasons why the Church is against each form of contraception.

  • Alex,

    As Teresa says, the Church’s opposition to barrier forms of birth control are based on the understanding that they falsify the procreative nature of the sex act. From a Catholic point of view, there is not a moral difference between the use of hormonal and barrier methods of birth control.

  • Alex,
    While it’s hard to see at a glance because the columns are out of alignment, the chart to which Teresa links gives typical use effectiveness ratings (it’s not specified on the page but it looks to be measured in terms of pregnancies per hundred users) for all methods. Pregnancy rates for the fertility-acceptance methods allowed by the Church are actually lower than they are for barrier contraceptives–quite a bit lower if you exclude the now disused calendar rhythm method.

    These methods do demand a high degree of self-discipline, which many couples are unwilling to impose on themselves.

  • Alex..again…abstaining when the wife is fertile teaches sexual control, which is essential and the reason why couples who utilize NFP don’t divorce or stray.

  • The problem I see with NFP is not the theoretical admissibility of the practice, but with the widespread disregard of the Church’s requirement that such mean be used only for grave reasons.

    Now customarily one does not simply judge his own case– he submits the matter to an independent person. Hence, those having recourse to these methods should be doing so only after consultation with an orthodox spiritual advisor, who can judge the facts of a couple’s situation and determine if there truly is a grave cause for avoiding cooperation in the creation of new life.

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  • Sorry, for my delay in responding back. Thank all of you for the comments. We have looked into this method further and also reading Gregory K. Popcak’s “Holy Sex!” is the ultimate guide to a fulfilling, happy, yet virtuous sexual life.” I have to recommend this book because it does lay out what NFP is in detail and makes it sound so.. much more loving … read the book if anyone was like me… Thanks

Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 1)

Thursday, June 17, AD 2010

If you move in conservative Catholic circles much, you have doubtless heard the phrase “contraceptive mentality”. Though used frequently and negatively, I think there is value in delving a bit more deeply into what we mean by the phrase. I was moved to write this in semi-response to an interesting post by Brett Salkeld a couple months back which sought to explore the bounds of what a “contraceptive mentality” is. Another good resource on the topic is this post at Catholic Culture on the contraceptive mentality.

While recognizing the dangers of trying to be too wide ranging in subject matter in the limited space of a blog post, my goal here is to set out answers to the following:

  • What is a “contraceptive mentality”?
  • How is a contraceptive mentality contrary to how humans are “meant” to function morally and sexually?
  • How, if at all, does NFP (natural family planning) relate to a contraceptive mentality?

I think it’s easiest to think about the idea of a contraceptive mentality against the backdrop of how we function sexually as human creatures — a term I use advisedly in that I want to emphasize our rootedness in a certain biological reality of being primates with certain biological systems and instincts, while at the same time not ignoring our rational, emotional and moral sensibilities in the sense that “human animal” strikes me as implying.

Uncertainty and Conception

One thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that humans have fairly even sexual drive all of the time. Or, at least, men have sexual drive pretty much all of the time. Women seem to have more variation in their level of interest, and indeed there is a fair amount of evidence that one driving (though unconscious) element of their drive is that they are more “in the mood” during the times of the month when they are fertile than when they are not. Another thing that sets us apart from most other higher primates is that a woman’s fertility is not marked by unmistakable physical signs (change of color and swelling of the genital area, changes in smell, etc.) (Though Bonobos have often been compared to humans in regards to their relatively constant sex drive, they are like chimps in that female fertility is readily apparent through external signs.)

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2 Responses to Real Sex vs. the Contraceptive Mentality (Part 1)

  • Though this doesn’t necessarily relate to the topic directly, according to a recent Gallup poll public opinion on same-sex relationships has shifted even more so toward moral acceptance. The two groups that shifted more toward approval were Catholics and men — the “contraceptive mentality” at work?

  • “the “contraceptive mentality” at work?”

    The older I get the harder it is to overestimate the pernicious effects of the “contraceptive mentality.”