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A Dollar a Day Keeps the Baby Away

"Our Final Jeopardy answer is: `The best way to prevent an unwed teenage pregnancy.' We turn first to our third place contestant, Mr. Christian, whose Final Jeopardy question is..."

"What is total abstinence?"

"Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Christian, but that approach is way out of tune with our modern era."

"Next we turn to Ms. Educator who was in second place at the end of Double Jeopardy. Ms. Educator's Final Jeopardy question is..."

"What is birth control distributed at taxpayers' expense to students at campus family planning clinics?"

"While that was a good answer Ms. Educator, unfortunately it wasn't quite what we were looking for."

"Finally, we turn to our returning champ, Mr. Pragmatist (sometimes known as Mr. Statist), whose Final Jeopardy question is ..."

"What is pay teenage girls not to get pregnant?"

"You're absolutely right, Mr. Pragmatist...."

Sound like a Hollywood game show? Not quite. About five hundred miles north of Hollywood, the real Mr. Pragmatist, California Assemblyman Bruce Bonzan, recently authored legislation which will create three pilot programs designed to stem the tide of unwed teenage pregnancies. How? By paying girls between the ages of sixteen and eighteen who have already had one unwed pregnancy a dollar a day not to get pregnant. But wait! There's more: in order to collect from the state money tree, and in order to convince the rest of us that there's no such thing as a free government handout, the girls must also attend mandatory support groups.

And Bronzan was laughed right out of the capitol building, right? Not exactly. The California Assembly overwhelmingly approved the measure (55-19), and sent it to an uncertain fate in the California Senate. Sad to say, California is not alone. Other state governments have either already passed, or, like California, are in the process of passing similar measures.

Why? According to proponents, the California measure would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year in welfare and medical costs, motivate teenage girls to stay in school, and reduce unwed teenage pregnancies.

Aside from the fact that there is no hardfast data to substantiate such wishful thinking, this measure is based on wholesale pragmatism (i.e., the greed factor is justified because it produces a desired social end). But the measure is flawed for other reasons, too. Why, for example, would an unwed girl opt for only a dollar a day when-- if she has a child -- she can take several dollars a day out of the cash register of current welfare programs? If money is the motivating factor (which the measure assumes), then such girls have no reason not to play the game to win by opting for the bigger payoff.

What of the support groups? Do they provide sound moral teaching and solid principles to prevent unwed pregnancies? Not really. According to a California Assembly "analysis," the classes are designed "to stimulate feelings of camaraderie, commitment, and self-esteem and to help them avoid getting pregnant again." Hmmm. That sure sounds like the kind of ammunition teenagers need on prom night!

In light of this legislative wisdom, why stop with unwed pregnancies? Why not pay thieves not to steal? Drug pushers not to sell their stuff? Deadbeat spouses not to skip child support payments? Lead-footed drivers not to speed?

In fact, why don't we cough up a dollar a day to prevent legislators from drafting and approving such ludicrous legislation? Only one problem though: we already pay them far more. And that's our real jeopardy.


Copyright © by Covenant Community Church of Orange County 1990
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