CULTURE DIGEST: Marriage cuts child poverty by 80 percent, according to report
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Being raised in a married family reduces a child's probability of living in poverty by more than 80 percent, according to a report by The Heritage Foundation which found the chief cause of child poverty is the absence of married fathers in the home.
"Some of this difference in poverty is due to the fact that single parents tend to have less education than married couples, but even when married couples are compared to single parents with the same level of education, the married poverty rate will still be more than 75 percent lower," Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, wrote.
"Marriage is a powerful weapon in fighting poverty. In fact, being married has the same effect in reducing poverty that adding five to six years to a parent's level of education has," Rector wrote in "Marriage: America's Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty," released Sept. 5.
In 2010, only 59 percent of all births in the United States were to married couples, the report said. Out-of-wedlock births often are confused with teen pregnancy and births, Rector noted. But few out-of-wedlock births occur to teenagers. Three-quarters of out-of-wedlock births in 2008 in the United States were to women between the ages of 19 and 29.
"The decline in marriage and growth in out-of-wedlock births is not a teenage issue; it is the result of a breakdown in relationships between young adult men and women," Rector wrote.
The United States is steadily separating into a two-caste system with marriage and education as the dividing line, he wrote. On average, high school dropouts who are married have a far lower poverty rate than single parents with one or two years of college, Rector reported.
In 2011, federal and state governments spent more than $450 billion on welfare for low-income families with children, the report said. About three-quarters of that money went to single-parent families.
"Most non-marital births are currently paid for by the taxpayers through the Medicaid system, and a wide variety of welfare assistance will continue to be given to the mother and child for nearly two decades after the child is born," Rector wrote. "On average, the means-tested welfare costs for single parents with children amount to around $30,000 per household per year."
As a solution, Rector said it is reasonable for government to take active steps to strengthen marriage.
"Just as government discourages youth from dropping out of school, it should provide information that will help people to form and maintain healthy marriages and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable," Rector wrote. "In particular, clarifying the severe shortcomings of the 'child first, marriage later' philosophy to potential parents in lower-income communities should be a priority."
For more information, visit www.heritage.org.
DEMOCRATS REINSERT GOD, JERUSALEM IN PLATFORM -- Democrats made a special point to amend their party platform to reinsert a belief in God and affirm Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reportedly at the request of President Obama.
After three floor voice votes that many said sounded evenly split in the affirmative and negative, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, serving as convention chairman, called the vote in the affirmative. On the floor was a motion to reinstate two items from the 2008 platform reading "we need a government that stands up for the hopes, values and interests of working people and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential" and "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel."
According to news reports, campaign officials requesting anonymity said Obama wondered why the mention of God, included in the 2008 platform, was ever removed, and ordered the party to reinsert the language. Democrats had approved one day earlier a platform that made no mention of God or Jerusalem but instead expressed an "unshakable commitment to Israel's security."
As Villaraigosa called the vote in the affirmative and the nation watched the televised proceedings, many party members audibly "booed" and expressed disapproval.
Republican nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan both said the removal of God from the platform was evidence of Obama being out of touch with Americans and a weak defender of Israel.
"I think this party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don't recognize," Romney said of the Democratic Party, according to The Washington Times.
Andrea Saul, Romney's spokeswoman, told The Times, "Mitt Romney has consistently stated his belief that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. President Obama has repeatedly refused to say the same himself."
As finalized, the Democratic platform mentions God once. By comparison, the Republican platform mentions God 12 times.
ATHEISTS 'LEFT OUT' OF POLITICAL CONVENTIONS -- After watching the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, atheists felt left out, according to a CNN report.
"We are deeply saddened by the exclusion of a large number of Americans by both parties," Teresa MacBain of American Atheists told CNN Sept. 6. "It amazes me that in modern-day America, so much prejudice still exists."
The group was jubilant after the DNC removed "God" from its platform, but the celebration didn't last.
"We had 24 hours of joy as we felt [that] finally our government values all people," MacBain said. "But that was short-lived. The vote last night angered many atheists and left them feeling excluded once again."
President Obama was the first president to acknowledge nonbelievers, American Atheists said. In his inauguration speech, Obama said, "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers," CNN noted.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported that 12 percent of the electorate in 2008 was made up of people with no religious affiliation, though experts say the number of outright atheists is much smaller, CNN said. Atheists tend to be Democrats, with Pew saying this year that 71 percent of Americans who identify as atheists are Democrats.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD SETTLES FOR $367,000 -- Planned Parenthood of Illinois has agreed to pay the state $367,000 in an out-of-court settlement regarding charges of Medicaid overbilling.
The Department of Healthcare and Family Services had alleged Caroline Hoke, the medical director for Planned Parenthood of Illinois since 2007, had overbilled the state more than $430,000, according to Crain's Chicago Business. Both sides signed the settlement agreement Sept. 4.
Overbilling of Medicaid by Planned Parenthood allegedly is not limited to Illinois. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is representing former Planned Parenthood clinic directors who have said organization affiliates in Iowa and Texas also fraudulently claimed Medicaid reimbursements.
"The Illinois case is just the tip of the iceberg, as our lawsuits against Planned Parenthood in Texas and Iowa demonstrate," ADF senior counsel Michael Norton said. "Planned Parenthood isn't entitled to any public funds, especially if it is defrauding Medicaid and the American taxpayer. People may hold different views about abortion, but everyone can agree that Planned Parenthood should play by the same rules as everyone else."
A U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee has been conducting an investigation into Planned Parenthood's policies and practices for nearly a year. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements alone in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
Planned Parenthood affiliates reported performing 329,445 abortions in 2010, again making PPFA America's leading abortion provider.
PENDERGRAFT ABORTION ASSOCIATE'S LICENSE SUSPENDED -- Maryland has suspended the medical license of abortion doctor Harold Alexander, an associate of oft-reprimanded late-term abortion provider James Pendergraft.
The Board of Physicians of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suspended Alexander's license Aug. 8 and maintained the suspension after an Aug. 22 hearing. The board found "a substantial risk of serious harm to the public health, safety or welfare," according to a spokesperson.
Alexander faced such charges as "sexual boundary" offenses, failed abortions, lack of or poor record keeping, and illegal prescriptions for Viagra and other drugs for himself and non-patients, according to research by Operation Rescue.
Alexander worked with Pendergraft in providing a new type of late-term abortion method at a clinic in Forestville, Md., according to an undercover investigation by Operation Rescue.
Pendergraft, who has had his Florida medical license suspended four times by the state, advertised the procedure online for a secret clinic in the Washington, D.C., area. The website described a procedure for late second trimester and third trimester pregnancies that involves the injection of poison or air into a baby's heart to kill him. The abortion would not be completed at the clinic, however. After "several minutes" of observation, the woman would be released in order for her to go to her doctor or a medical facility for induction of the dead child.
"Alexander and Pendergraft were charging thousands of dollars to place a woman in a life-threatening condition then ship her off to have someone else clean up the mess they created," Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said. "We hope Maryland's actions will give Florida a reason to finally revoke Pendergraft's only current license."
Pendergraft does not have a medical license in Maryland, according to Operation Rescue.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Erin Roach and Diana Chandler of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).