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COMMENTARY: Wrong message, right intention

By   /   March 16, 2012  /   No Comments

By Kevin Binversie

State Sen. Glenn Grothman loves controversy.
 
In 2003, the West Bend Republican questioned whether Kwanza was a real holiday. In 2009, he speculated that University of Wisconsin-Madison’s diversity-based admissions policies were evidence of the university’s hatred of white men.
 
Two months ago, he proposed amending the state’s campaign finance disclosure forms, deleting the requirement to disclose a donor’s employer.
 
Privately, Grothman will tell you he’s just trying to get Americans to talk about real issues.
 
Thus his latest proposal, one that would require Wisconsin’s Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board “to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”
 
“We are very close to having single parents becoming the norm in this country,” Grothman said. “It’s not healthy for children.”
 
When pressed by the left-leaning Huffington Post, Grothman made the fairly bland observation that, yes, it would be better if women married the men who father their children.
 
“Society would be better off with two-parent families,” Grothman told Wisconsin Reporter. “My critics are trying to misrepresent the findings behind this bill.”
 
Those findings are pretty powerful. Single-parent households, it turns out, are increasingly common in some places. Last month, the New York Times cited 2009 government data showing that 59 percent of mothers under 30 when they gave birth were single.
 
That’s not the problem. It’s what Grothman found in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2010 report that disturbed him.
  • The report, the department’s fourth on the topic, identified household conditions that contribute to physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect of children.
  • In a home consisting of both biological parents, HHS found that 6.8 out of 1,000 children were abused.
  • In single-parent households with no live-in partner, the rate of abuse was four and a half times greater — occurring in 28.4 out of 1,000 children.
  • For single-parent households with a live-in partner, the rate of abuse was eight times greater than that of biological parent households, with 57.2 out of 1,000 children becoming victims of some form of child abuse.
Grothman’s critics rarely mention the child abuse stats behind his bill, and so it’s become a caricature, another example of the election-year meme, the “GOP War on Women.” Grothman’s bill was one of many protested by women’s groups at the state Capitol on Tuesday.

Grothman “is taking crazy to new levels,” wrote Rick Ungar in Forbes Magazine. Tanya Atkinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood told Today’s TMJ4, Women are really, really getting fed up by all of this kind of legislation. They want it to stop and we’re seeing them really raise up their voices.”

“This is just very divisive, non-inclusive language,” said Nicole Angresano of United Way. “It’s quite concerning to imply that single motherhood is always a choice. We know that in Wisconsin and every other state, many, many women are the victims of sexual violence and sexual crimes that result in pregnancy. I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Grothman certainly doesn’t believe in any other option for that woman other than giving birth.”

 
It’s possible to argue that Grothman is guilty of a public-relations deficit disorder, that in order to stimulate healthy debate he’s generating more heat than light. But that use — or abuse, as his critics might have it — of the legislative process is perhaps less dangerous to Americans than a system of government subsidies that continues to support lifestyles that injure children. 
 
Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native who has been blogging on the state’s political culture for more than eight years. He has served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous Wisconsin Republican campaigns in various capacities, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at kevin.binversie@franklincenterhq.org.

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