Home > Uncategorized > Being a single mom is not a crime

Being a single mom is not a crime

I’m reading a book called “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” which explains how people first make moral decisions, then use their brains to argue those decisions.

It also promises to explain how you can actually change people’s minds, so I’m looking forward to that.

My goal of reading this is to understand how good, moral people can really believe some things that seem just so outrageous and illogical to me. I want to know when it makes sense to have a difficult conversation and how to approach it. I’ll tell you how that goes.

But every now and then I lose faith in the idea that those outrageous ideas come from an earnestly moral place. And one example came from my son, who is 12.

If you have a 12-year-old, or if you’ve ever been a 12-year-old, you may remember that they speak somewhat hyperbolically. So when mine told me there’s someone in Wisconsin making it illegal to be a single parent, I thought he was making it up.

But then he found this article for me. I was dumbfounded, and he said I’d have to blog about it since he was right and I was wrong. So here I am.

This just seems so so ass backwards on so so many levels, especially when you think about how it would go down if it became law. Do we get the fathers in trouble too? What if we don’t know who the father is? Do we make it illegal to have unprotected sex in the first place with someone you aren’t married to?

Beyond the crazy idea of where this would stop, I always get upset when I see vulnerable people further abused. If this guy can make a case that kids of single moms are more at risk for various things, why not take that as a cue to give them more support (rather than punishing them)?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. JSE
    May 4, 2012 at 9:03 am

    Let me explain why you are right and your kid is wrong.

    1. This bill has been introduced, not passed. Lots of nutty bills are introduced all the time, with no intention of making them law — the point is to get press coverage and push the window of “views you can express in a respectable newspaper” in your preferred direction. Thanks to the recalls, the Republicans have lost their state Senate majority, so I’m not sure there’s much chance of this passing.

    2. As far as I can tell, the bill does not classify single parenthood as child abuse or otherwise make single parenthood a crime. It demands that state materials on child abuse include some tendentious language beating up on single parents, saying that single-parent households are “a contributing factor” to child abuse. This great comment at the Isthmus


    links to a useful paper which gives a long list of factors which have bigger effect sizes on child abuse than single parenting — like parental depression and anxiety, alcohol abuse, and unplanned pregnancy. If the state Dems read this study they should offer a friendly amendment to require that state documents emphasize that the lack of reliable and available contraception is a contributing factor to child abuse.


    • Dan L
      May 4, 2012 at 11:11 am

      I agree. The bill would not make it “illegal to be a single parent.” That is hyperbole. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact the bill is as disgusting and reprehensible as they come.

      As for the book, it doesn’t seem like a great insight to say that much of political disagreement comes from a fundamental difference in morals. For example, Glenn Grothman (the guy behind the nasty bill) clearly has a different set of morals than I do. It’s ridiculous to say that Glenn and I are both “good, moral people.” I suspect that in his concept of morality, I am not moral, and in my concept of morality, he is not.


      • May 4, 2012 at 11:14 am

        Hm… I still think it might make sense. But I’ll finish the book and think about it some more.


  2. May 4, 2012 at 9:57 am

    There’s probably something to the thesis of the book. I’ve seen the discrimination in reverse when it comes to single vs married parents though. Several years ago I was advising a college student group and they decided to send food baskets to needy families at Thanksgiving and Christmas. There were several single moms in the group but nobody was married. The local Samaritan’s Kitchen provided connections to needy families and gave the names of a married couple with a few kids to our group. The president of the club came to my office and stated that the group had decided not to help this family and they wanted to ask for the name of a single parent family instead. After a discussion about the dangers of judging others circumstances, it was clear that she thought the man should be able to provide for this family and that there had to be much needier single parent families. So, a single parent got the food and the married couple didn’t. Not one of my better advising stories. I’ve always wondered what I could have said to have made that a teachable moment. Maybe your book had some insight.


  3. JurisV
    May 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    There is another book that I ran across in Bill Mitchell’s blog on “Debunking Myths” and the best part — it’s Free. It sounds like it may be on the same general topic — how to see myths and tools to counteract them without being obnoxious.

    the blog post is:

    And the link for the book is:


  4. May 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    In Virginia, it is a Class 4 misdemeanor to have any sex with someone to whom you are not married. It can be a Class 1 misdemeanor for cohabitating with someone to whom you are not married. That means up to 12 months of jail time, y’all.



  5. Fred Sobel
    May 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Cathy, first I’d like to associate myself with the comments you made during the interview snippets that were shown on the Frontline episode last week. I share your observations. On the matter of whether it is a crime or not to have a child as a single person, the only crime I see is the force used by government to make others who choose to not have children pay for those who do. Your children are not my children, nor are they my responsibility to feed, clothe, house, educate, or provide medical care. I don’t feel that we are a village, an all-for-one and one-for-all community. Rather, we are individuals competing for goods and services and mates and we’re not on the same team except in the largest sense that we share a physical environment and a common defense. I recognize that children are often the innocent victims of their parents disregard for their welfare by failing to have taken into account their inability to properly provide for said welfare, prior to having procreated. Yet, is that a valid reason for forcing others to make up for that deficit? Rather than a pass-the-buck society, it seems to me the sooner we have a society of accountability the better. Let’s usher it in slowly, to give everyone time to adjust to the new paradigm.


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