In the wake of the reversal of Roe, the culture uses the childless by choice as a political weapon.
A recent Michigan State University poll found that 1 in 5 adults in the Wolverine State “do not want children and therefore are child-free,” in the words of a co-author of the study.
When someone uses a loaded expression such as “child-free” (like disease-free?), there’s an agenda at work. Here, it’s to convince us that the absence of children in one’s life is a good thing. It’s not that something is missing (childless), but that the more enlightened among us have been liberated from antiquated notions — among them the importance of family life and raising the next generation.
Last year, another MSU survey insisted there was “no differences in life satisfaction … between parents and child-free individuals.”
In releasing the results of its latest survey, MSU warned, “Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, a large number of Americans are now at risk of being forced to have children despite not wanting them.” Hysteria anyone?
There are a few problems with this analysis: 1. Dobbs didn’t outlaw abortion but said there is no federal right to abortion and sent the issue back to the states. 2. Birth control (including vasectomies and tubal ligations) is readily available. 3. Unwanted children can be placed for adoption. The “child-free” will not be turned into baby farms.
Still, abortion is crucial to the debate. It’s the ultimate way progressives devalue children. It’s also the ultimate fail safe for those who want to act irresponsibly but not be inconvenienced.
Having spent decades working to convince young adults that kids are expensive, inconvenient and messy, the elite is now shocked to learn that many don’t want them.
Children interfere with romantic getaways, buying a vacation home and saving for retirement, everyone from Madison Avenue to the news media tells us. Children are presented as parasites when they’re young, public enemies during their teen years and ingrates when they’re older.
Last year, Pope Francis lamented the fact that, increasingly, young adults are choosing pets over children. The pope said a “denial of motherhood and fatherhood” is a type of selfishness that “diminishes us, it takes away our humanity.”
It also keeps many in a perpetual state of adolescence. How can we expect 20-somethings to have children when so many refuse to stop being children? Nearly 1 in 3 adults, ages 25 to 29, are still living at home with their parents. The Peter Pan Syndrome used to be a pejorative. Now, it’s a celebration of a carefree existence — forever frolicking in the sunny fields of childhood.
There’s also a political dimension to childlessness. People with children are more future-oriented, and so more likely to have conservative values and vote Republican. A 2018 article in the journal Political Psychology noted, “New research has found that parenthood is associated with harsher moral judgements and greater social conservativism.”
In a 2020 paper for the American Enterprise Institute, Lyman Stone noted that of the 600 largest counties, those that candidate Joe Biden carried had fertility rates that were 25% lower than Trump territory. In other words, the more fertile areas (those more likely to have large families) tend to vote Republican.
One of the most important movements of 2021 was the parents’ revolt over “woke” curricula in the public schools, reflected in contentious school committee meetings. The phenomenon helped underdog Glenn Youngkin win the Virginia governor’s race. It also resulted in the recall of three school board members in liberal San Francisco earlier this year.
Parents are incensed by public school indoctrination, including critical race theory and transgender ideology, not to mention the dangers of having their daughters share bathrooms with boys who say they’re girls.
Parents tend to think more about the future, asking questions like: What kind of country will my children and grandchildren inherit? Will most jobs have migrated overseas by then? Will Social Security be there when they retire? Democrats don’t like voters who ask such questions.
What kind of a relationship can you have with your phone? High-tech gadgetry and a universe of entertainment options are seductive, but ultimately unsatisfying. Children force us to grow up — to take life seriously and confront the most important questions about the nature of existence and our place in the universe.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God did not say: “Be child-free, and let the earth fend for itself.”
• Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer and syndicated columnist.