Like many D.C.-area commuters, I always grab a free copy of the Washington Examiner to read on the metro. Today’s cover story: For teen parents, day care free at area high schools. According to the article, seven area schools provide the service, which supporters say help prevent teen parents from becoming dropouts.
Of course, the paper presents the other side of the story as well:
But critics question whether the facilities encourage teens to engage in risky sexual activity by providing a safety net on the taxpayers’ dime. . . . Arthur Purves, president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, said local and state governments send the wrong message by cutting costs for teen parents.
“We’re subsidizing and encouraging out-of-wedlock births,” Purves said. “It encourages a large class of people who are totally dependent on the government.”
I highly doubt that the program encourages teens to have unprotected sex. High school students generally do not get pregnant on purpose. They do not say to themselves, “Gee, free day care– what a great opportunity for me to get knocked up at the age of 16!”
So the program does not encourage out-of-wedlock conceptions. It does, however, encourage out-of-wedlock births. And that’s a good thing.
No matter how much prevention work takes place, some number of students are going to get pregnant or father a child. Free day care in high schools encourages those teens to give birth instead of using the $400 “safety net” of abortion. The programs send a very positive message: a child need not “ruin your life.” You can choose life, choose parenting, and still move forward with your education.
Purves’ comments are disturbing from a pro-life perspective. We should keep in mind that conservative support for abortion is nothing new. The early abortion movement of the 1960s relied heavily on the argument that abortion would save taxpayer money by “preventing” the lives of poor children. There will always be a segment within the pro-choice movement that is interested in making sure that the “wrong sort of people”– people who are “totally dependent on the government”– do not reproduce.
But, as the Examiner article points out, pro-life programs like free day care in schools can actually save taxpayer money over the long term:
In 2008, teen childbearing cost taxpayers at least $10.9 billion, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. But many of these costs . . . are canceled out when teens obtain an education and support their families, according to school officials who have watched it happen firsthand.
More important, such programs save human lives.