One Sum Siew Kee wrote some rather shocking statements in a letter sent to Voices in Today newsPAPer. The writer’s mindset can be summed up in the following quote:
“…In the case of benefits for single mothers, if we intend to deter people from unwanted pregnancies, we must make good on the threat of inadequate support for a child born out of wedlock, otherwise the deterrent will not work…”
You can read the letter in full along with a couple of my replies to it over here. For the sake of objectivity, let’s take a closer look at why some people are so against single parenthood. I can think of three.
1. Their God says so (I can’t argue against this one except that not everyone believes in your God).
2. They fail to understand all the possible scenarios and unique circumstances which have led to the single parenthood.
3. They have been reading Freakonomics.
Just in case you haven’t read the highly controversial bestseller, author Steven Levitt talks about the plain evidence of cheating in sumo wrestling and the reason for a decline in crime rate in the US – legalised abortion. In the book and a 2001 paper entitled “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime”, Levitt points to the facts that:
1. Males aged 18 to 24 are most likely to commit crimes.
2. Data indicates that crime in the United States started to decline in 1992.
3. The legalisation of abortion started in 1973.
4. 18 years later, there was a decline in crime rate in the US, the sharpest drop being seen in 1995.
5. Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, Oregon and Washington which legalised abortion earlier experienced steeper drops in crime than states which legalised abortion later.
6. Studies in Canada and Australia showed similar trends.
Levitt postulated that single mothers did not manage to bring up their children properly and legalising abortion resulted in a drop in the number of single mothers and children who are not properly cared for. Thus, fewer school dropouts, fewer unemployed, fewer street children, lower crime rates. Not surprisingly, Levitt was attacked by anti-abortion groups, religious zealots and other academics.
You can read about the debate on the nitty gritty details on Wikipedia; I don’t wish to bore you in my own blog. On a more personal and anecdotal note, I have observed many single-mother families in Thailand (very common there) and I can say quite categorically that most of them are decidedly dysfunctional, contributing to the street violence, petty crimes, prostitution and high school dropout rates in the kingdom. I do not refute Levitt’s findings and conclusions.
A country’s lawmakers who accept Levitt’s argument (the numbers don’t lie) would want to keep abortion legal. I have nothing against that as many clueless teenage girls are manifestly not ready for motherhood. Yes, there are alternatives. The baby can be aborted or given up for adoption. In these cases, giving up the baby (one way or another) would be a sensible decision.
On the other hand, not all women who get pregnant out of wedlock are clueless and immature individuals. They may decide to take up the challenge as they cannot bear to part with their own flesh and blood. While we can advise and counsel, the ultimate decision lies with the woman. Someone genuinely concerned about the woman’s predicament and the future of her child will try to help her regardless of her decision. Threatening or punishing her for not taking our advice to kill the baby or give it up for adoption is barbaric, period. It’s not a crime to let your heart rule your head. Why the “threat” and “deterrence” as suggested by Sum Siew Kee’s ridiculous letter?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good our crime stats look if we were all puritanical barbarians who see “zero tolerance” as the only way forward. A society that is all head and no heart can never be a happy one no matter how good the numbers look.
© Chan Joon Yee