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February 7, 2007
Column #1,328
Advance for Feb. 10, 2007
(third of a 3-part series)
Pro Life's Answer for Unwed Couples
by Michael J. McManus

My column last week argued that the Achilles Heel of the Pro-Life Movement is that few attempt to persuade expectant unwed couples to consider marriage.

Pro-Life should be as interested in the quality of a child's life, as it is in whether the child is born. Pro-Life agencies focus on saving babies, with modest success.

In 1975, shortly after Roe v. Wade, there were 21.7 abortions per 1,000 women and virtually no Pregnancy Resource Centers. Today there are 2,400 Centers, that connect with 1.5 million women.  Yet, the abortion rate is virtually the same at 20.8 per 1,000.

What's changed dramatically is out-of-wedlock births have soared from 399,000 in 1975 to 1,525,000 in 2005 - nearly a 4-fold hike. Those children are likely to become poor, pregnant or delinquent. They have bleak prospects for success.

What can Pro-Life do to reduce out-of-wedlock births?

First, it can motivate partnering churches to make a case for marriage with this generation. Ron Gallagher of Bethany Christian Services in Virginia asked a pastor, "Give me the dangers of a bad marriage," which the pastor did. "Now give me a similar risk facing people who do not get married at all." He could not do it.

That's why the marriage rate plummeted 50% from 1970 to 2005.  Few seem to know that 9 of 10 married men live till 65, but only 6 of 10 single men. Married couples are happier, healthier, and retire with 3 - 4 times the wealth of singles.

Why not preach on marriage this Valentine's Week?

Second, Pregnancy Resource Centers can launch a marriage initiative. A year ago my wife and I proposed at a national convention of Care Net, with 1,060 Crisis Pregnancy Centers:
"Train your volunteers, who are mostly married women AND THEIR HUSBANDS to be Mentor Couples who can prepare couples for a lifelong marriage. Then Susan, your volunteer can say, "Yes, Darlene, you are pregnant.  Your baby is due in six months.  Who is the father?  Robert? Do you love him?  Would you like to be married to him?"

Darlene might reply, "Yes, I love him. We are living together."

Susan could say, "The best possible future for your baby is to be brought up by a married mother and father. Such children are healthier, will do better in school, are more likely to graduate and go to college, get better jobs and live years longer than those born out-of-wedlock.   Would you and Robert meet with my husband and me to explain how we can mentor you at no cost, and almost give you "marriage insurance."

Susan's husband, Tom, could show the couple a brochure, "Health, Wealth, Longer Life and Better Sex! Get all 4 When You Marry. MARRY? YES!" Inside he could read, "Married men live 10 years longer than a single or divorced man...and earn 10 to 40 percent more with the same education. Married couples have better sex and more often than singles." (Disclosure: Marriage Savers that I chair, wrote these brochures and training materials.)

The Pro-Life Movement is women talking to women. Male mentors attract young men.

Care Net Pregnancy Center of Albuquerque plunged in. "Almost all of these couples have been brought up by single parents who did not want them to marry," says Director Mary LeQuieu. "Many are new Christians who have never been to a wedding and think they must save $25,000 for a wedding.

"We can do it for 50 people for $350 by getting everything donated. A tuxedo rental is donated. I only have to buy the ingredients for a cake of $16 that they normally charge $500. I do the invitations on my printer. We buy the flowers at wholesale and have donated $3,000 dresses."

Result:  Two couples married, two broke up and six are in process. The breakups are avoided divorces. Studies show that those who split after taking a premarital inventory have the same scores as those who marry and later divorce. Mentors say their own marriages got better as they served others, proving the crazy economics of Jesus: "Give, and you shall receive."

Bethany, which placed 1,900 children for adoption more than any agency, will recruit  couples from Fredericksburg, VA churches as mentors. "The only reason they are doing so is they love God and these young people," says Ron Gallagher.  With a federal grant it is also preparing TV commercials with "positive information on marriage."

Pro-Life can be Pro-Marriage.
 
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