Our Marriages of Choice

Ross uses a flamethrower to illuminate the too-clever aspects of Jacob Weisberg’s article on abortion and family values. I won’t fight that fight, but I will point out that any discussion pairing abortion – or “choice,” in the (terrible) parlance – and intact families raises some discomfiting questions.

It’s a great thing that the importance of intact two-parent families is now widely recognized, but the success of the family itself is in a weirder state that is not, I suspect, unrelated to the availability of abortion. The people who actually defer childbearing until marriage, and who then stay married, tend to be more highly educated and affluent – people who have had the luxury of waiting and playing the field and choosing prudently among possible mates, and then marrying for both love and compatibility. It would be instructive to know how many women in this cohort have had abortions. I’m not mustering this as an argument for abortion as a positive good, but if it’s a lot – it’s certainly not negligible – then what do we say about the relationship between abortion and family formation, at least where family formation is strongest? Either way, contemporary marriage, among this most successfully married cohort, represents a triumph of bourgeois volition. Maybe I’m a pessimist (I am), but I find it a little discomfiting that, in the present day, this traditional arrangement – in its happiest, most robust form – seems based upon a post-traditional mindset.

In search of hypocrisy, Weisberg overstates the contradictions. But contemporary marriage does seem to be in a strange state of tension, in which staying in a traditional marriage is aided by some critical distance from tradition.