How Conservatives and the GOP Destroyed the "Traditional Family" They Claim to Treasure
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For decades, social conservatives have had a lot to say about the decline of “family values” in the United States, and they have a long list of people they like to blame, including gays and lesbians, Hollywood, the adult entertainment industry, feminists, rappers, the ACLU and abortion providers. As the Christian Right sees it, a major cultural war has been taking place in the U.S. -- and the American family is being attacked by everyone from Larry Flynt and Planned Parenthood to 50 Cent and proponents of gay marriage.
Social conservatives are right about one thing: the American family is under attack, but not from cultural liberals. The greatest threat to the American family is economic stress -- and the modern-day Republicans and social conservatives who preach family values are the ones who have done the most to imperil the American family. From union-busting and the outsourcing of jobs to developing countries and opposing universal health care, social conservatives have not only endangered the American middle class -- they have also made it increasingly hard to raise a "traditional" family.
Economic Hardship Makes People Delay Marriage and Childbearing
Many Americans are well aware of the economic pressures families are facing in the United States, influencing their attitudes toward marriage and childbearing. During the summer of 2009, the Guttmacher Institute surveyed 947 fertile women (18–34 years of age) with annual incomes under $75,000. Guttmacher reported that because of the economic downturn, 44 percent of the women surveyed wanted “to reduce or delay their childbearing” -- and 64 percent agreed with the following statement: “With the economy the way it is, I can’t afford to have a baby right now.” That 64 percent increased to 77 percent among the women who had annual household incomes under $25,000.
Meanwhile, physicians all over the U.S. have been reporting a sharp increase in the number of men inquiring about permanent sterilization. In 2009, Planned Parenthood reported that requests for vasectomies had increased by more than 30 percent at some of their clinics in Southern California, while Dr. Marc Goldstein of the Cornell Institute for Reproductive Medicine in New York City estimated that he was seeing a 48 percent increase in consultations for vasectomies. The Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio has reported a 50 percent increase in the number of vasectomies performed in that facility.
“In some ways, you can compare fertility patterns to what we’re seeing with consumer spending,” said Laura Lindberg, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute. “People are saying, ‘This isn’t the time I want to make major purchases or take on major expenses’ -- and there is nothing bigger in your expenses than having a child. I think that even women who might be able to afford to have children are hesitating because they’re thinking, ‘Is this really the time that I want to go on maternity leave? Will my job still be here when I get back? Will I make myself vulnerable to losing my job if I go on maternity leave?’”
Tough economic conditions not only discourage procreation -- they also discourage people from getting married in the first place. In a 2009 survey, the legal Web site FindLaw.com found that 21 percent of people between the ages of 18-34 were postponing their marriage plans because of the economy. That survey also found that 40 percent of participants between the ages of 18-34 were putting off marriage, divorce or procreation for economic reasons. FindLaw.com’s survey indicated that on one hand, people who are already married are more likely to want to avoid the expense of a divorce during recessions -- and on the other hand, the unmarried want to avoid the costs of getting married when times are bad.