The XX Factor

Red Families, Blue Families, and Ugly Truths

Amanda , I’ve read and reread Ross Douthat’s column from yesterday , and I just can’t see where he’s taking a potshot at “yuppie abortion sluts.” And I hardly think he’s trying to “wave off the statistical reality that blue families are more stable.”

As much as I loathe any “red” vs.”blue” conversation, since most people I know are at least a little bit purple, I do think Douthat’s take on Red Families v. Blue Families is similar to the take I would have if I ever get a chance to sit down and read it. Namely: There’s a lot of data in there that should make a lot of people uncomfortable.

It’s impossible to look at the numbers and completely discount the effect that abortion might be having. In fact, I believe that Douthat is only emphasizing a point that the authors themselves bring up. (To quote him: “Cahn and Carbone also acknowledge one of the more polarizing aspects of the ‘blue family’ model. Conservative states may have more teen births and more divorces, but liberal states have many more abortions.”) And it’s unfair to claim that the dearth of abortion clinics in Red America is causing teenage girls to be frog-marched down the aisle, leading to early divorce and broken families without acknowledging that the statistical reality of higher abortion rates in Blue America might have at least something to do with more stable families. (I believe that wing nut Douthat said the blue-state model “may depend on abortion to succeed.” Crazy talk!)

There are lots of ugly truths for all of us to confront. If conservative values that lead to earlier marriage-and to shotgun weddings or young single-parent families-are subsequently leading to broken families, yes, we have to ask ourselves what price we want to pay for our opposition to abortion. But if a “successful” family model relies in part on the availability of abortion to succeed-and it’s a fair question to raise-well, that’s a pretty high price to pay, too.

What this book affords is the opportunity for an important conversation. And we as a society can have that conversation, or we can just retire to “Rightwingnuttersville” and “Leftwingcrazytown” and take shots at one another.