Ross Douthat of the NY Times has an interesting take on a what sounds like a provocative new book, Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture.
The book has a liberal-leaning thesis, which Douthat sums up this way: Culturally conservative “red America” is “stuck trying to sustain an outdated social model. By insisting (unrealistically) on chastity before marriage, Cahn and Carbone argue, social conservatives guarantee that their children will get pregnant early and often (see Palin, Bristol), leading to teen childbirth, shotgun marriages and high divorce rates.”
Part of the problem with this thesis, the book’s authors acknowledge is that liberal states have higher abortion rates. In other words, the success of the “blue family” model is in part dependent on access to (and acceptance of) abortion. Douthat writes:
Liberals sometimes argue that their preferred approach to family life reduces the need for abortion. In reality, it may depend on abortion to succeed. The teen pregnancy rate in blue Connecticut, for instance, is roughly identical to the teen pregnancy rate in red Montana. But in Connecticut, those pregnancies are half as likely to be carried to term. Over all, the abortion rate is twice as high in New York as in Texas and three times as high in Massachusetts as in Utah.
So it isn’t just contraception that delays childbearing in liberal states, and it isn’t just a foolish devotion to abstinence education that leads to teen births and hasty marriages in conservative America. It’s also a matter of how plausible an option abortion seems, both morally and practically, depending on who and where you are.