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Rebuilding the American Family

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
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January 2, 2023 7:03 am

Rebuilding the American Family

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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January 2, 2023 7:03 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes back the Director of Federal Affairs for Life and Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, Connor Semelsberger, to discuss the importance of the family unit and how we can take steps to rebuild the American family. 


Welcome to Family Policy Matters, an engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina Family Policy Council. You're equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state, and nation. And now here is our host of Family Policy Matters, Tracy Devitt-Griggs. Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. The American family is disintegrating. Well, that's the title of an article co-written by our guest today, and he suggests the problem is not for the reasons you might think.

And the solutions? Much closer to home than you might want to think. Connor Semelsberger is Director of Federal Affairs for Life and Human Dignity at Family Research Council. And he's here to offer up some ideas on how we can start rebuilding the vital institution of the American family. Connor Semelsberger, welcome back to Family Policy Matters. It's so great to be back and happy to talk about what we can do to really strengthen the American family. Your article starts by laying out some startling statistics about abortion among single Americans on one hand, and then on the other hand, the skyrocketing numbers of children being raised in single parent homes.

So what are those stats and what's going on here? Let's start with the issue of abortion. We had the Dobbs decision this summer overturning Roe v. Wade.

It was a great momentous victory for the life issue. But what we've seen in the last couple weeks is some very recent abortion statistics coming out of the states. And one thing that just jumped out the page as we've been analyzing these statistics is how integral the family or rather the breakdown of the family is to the rising rates of abortion in the U.S. And the stat that most jumped out is that consistently over the past 10 years or so, between 84 to 86 percent of all abortions ever recorded annually in the United States are to unmarried women. That is a stat that's just so much higher than any other demographic, whether it's age or race or prior pregnancies, anything else. Married versus unmarried women is just such a high proportion of our abortions in our country. And you look on the other side, you look at just how many people are living with a single parent, predominantly single mothers. And we have the highest rate across the whole globe, the United States has the highest rate of children living with single parents. So it's just sobering statistics that kind of get overlooked over gloss. We love to look at total statistics or marriage rates and things like this, but to just see how in a strictly linked things like abortion, the breakdown of the family are all to this institution that is time tested and well established. And that's marriage.

Right. Do you have some hard stats on what has happened to that so-called American nuclear family? Yeah, we really do. Just highlighting single families is one. But boy, let's look at a couple more. We have tracked the marriage rates overall, and we really looking back and seeing just how much COVID has impacted us just in terms of people dying in our country, maybe the way our government works with our health care system and things like that in our economy. But boy, I think COVID just had such unlasting effects on religion and the American family.

And here's one just to throw out. We had the lowest rate of marriages in any year in American history in 2020. Five percent, just as little as 10, 15 years ago, that was up to seven and a half percent. So it's dropped almost two percentage points in less than five years.

And COVID bottomed out in 2020. So you just look at statistics like that where our marriage rates are dropping, fertility rates are actually dropping as well. And so people just are not desiring to be married, the stability of marriage, to find that lifelong committed partner and to start a family. It's just not happening at the same rate that we've had. So children aren't being born. Couples aren't coming together to foster family. And so that nuclear family as a whole, from all fronts, being married, staying married, having children, raising children has just been on a full frontal assault. And like I said, it all culminated in sort of 2020 with COVID where just so much was thrown out of the loop and the American family really suffered because of it. So I don't know if the 2021 statistics are available yet, but do you think that there's going to be a bounce back then on the marriage and fertility rates? Yeah. So that's a good assumption to make.

I think there will be a slight bump back. Like you said, some people might've just said, hey, my wedding got canceled. I had to push it off the next year. But one thing we've looked into that sort of might not see as big of increase as you might think is the people that were really dedicated to wanting to get married. They went to the courthouse or made sure they had, you know, a reverend there. They made sure they got married at least in principle and on paper. They put maybe the celebration off, but they cared about marriage. They got married.

And so that's the thing. The people that really cared about the institution probably followed through with a COVID wedding. But others that said, hey, you know, my big wedding got canceled out, put it off the next year. Maybe they never got married down the road or they realized actually being with this person a little longer.

I don't want to get married to this person. So you may see some increase yet, but the numbers haven't been released. And we think it may just have bottomed out and that might be where we go. But we'll be very interested to see where things bounce back after 2021 and now as we round out 2022. You said this is also extending to the extended family.

So we're seeing a major drop in that as well. And how does that affect the whole family and especially children? This is one thing that I think really resonated with me. You know, the nuclear family is so important. It's God ordained a husband, a wife and their children. But the family is so much bigger than that.

I think it's something other countries, whether they're developed countries or not, really get right that we in the United States, at least in our modern times, really get wrong. And this idea of the extended family being connected, grandparents and their grandchildren, aunts and uncles and their nieces. You know, that extended family is just they're getting smaller. We're not having tons and tons of cousins and aunts and uncles like we used to because we're just having families with two kids or even one kid. Grandparents maybe live so far away from their children. We're just so much more disconnected than we used to be.

And one stat that was showed again, even globally, how we don't contend there. Only 8 percent of American children live with any aunts or grandparents or extended family, compared to 38 percent of children around the globe live with some member of their extended family. So you can just see how around the globe this essence of family and into that extended family resonates so much in terms of passing down the faith and their moral values and virtues and just being able to raise up together.

And just here in the U.S., that's just really faltered work. If not, I mean, the extended family is not connected. The nuclear family is not either. And at least people just feeling more isolated than ever before. And that extended family providing kind of a barrier to some of the problems that you might encounter, whether there's health or sickness or financial problems, you've got extended family to come in and help during those difficult times.

Yeah, yeah. Just real quick on that, you know, talk about the abortion issue. One of the main reasons women give time and time again of why they choose abortion is either economic reasons or just relationship partner reasons. And a lot of that is solved by a spouse being in the picture. That's why the married rate of abortion is so low.

But think about it. If a woman, even if the father's not in the picture, has extended family around her and in her life, either her mother or father, a brother or sister, to be there to support her through carrying that pregnancy to term, they're going to be so much more likely to choose life and feel like they have a support system if her family's around her. But if the nuclear family's broken down, extended family's not around, the only person she may have to rely on is the children's father. And if it's not her husband, many times they choose abortion.

Good point. So you also talked in your article briefly about what you believe are not the causes of this disintegration of the family. And I know as American conservatives, we really like to point the finger out there somewhere. But what are some of those issues that you think may not be contributing as much as some people might lead us to believe? So the way we've started to look at it is actually flipping everything on its head.

We're just flipping the coin. We at FRC, we tackle stopping abortions and disintegration of marriage through same-sex marriage and transgenderism and all that. More to the disintegration of religious freedom.

We sort of tackle things at the end result. And instead, we're starting to think of things at the very beginning. While we might think the rapid rates of abortion or the new-founded acceptance of same-sex marriage and transgenderism are the cause of the breakdown of the family, the way we've looked at it is those things are actually the symptoms. They're big symptoms. They're important symptoms. But rather than actually being the causes of the breakdown of the family, they're actually the graphic and unfortunately downtrodden symptoms of what is low marriage rate, families not being intact, extended families being distant, all those things we just went through.

Those are normally the things we point back to. That's the reason you're going to have higher abortion rates if the family's broken down. The idea of same-sex marriage is only palpable to a culture that's already accepted that marriage even between a man and a woman is no longer for life. Or it's no longer with a single person when, for instance, you know, marriages can be ripped up in the moment of no-fault divorce or just cheating becomes way more widely accepted. Things like that are all beginning to sow in the family and then only when that happens do you get things like a rapid rise in abortion, same-sex marriage, the idea that a biological man can identify or change their sex to become a woman. Those things are sort of outgrowths of the destabilization of the family. Do you have some practical and manageable ways that we can start to rebuild our family in our own homes, communities, neighborhoods?

Yes, and that's what we really wanted to do with the piece we wrote and we encourage you to check it out. We wanted to diagnose the issue. What's going on?

Why is this so graphic? Why is these changes so much more dramatic than we might think? But one of those practical things, we can do something about it. I may not be a policymaker, but what can you do? If you're a young person, start a family. Don't wait till, you know, you've already been settled in your career and all your debts paid off and everything's going well for you.

And then decide, you know what? At this point, I should start a family. Start a family. Stay connected to your family. We talk about the extended family. No better thing than to reach out to maybe that relative that you hadn't talked to in a long time to pull them back in. Maybe they're going through a tough time and they're dealing with these very things we just talked about and just that friendly voice can make a difference. And then even just reaching out to those people right in your doorstep that might be in need. Maybe there is someone facing an unplanned pregnancy that just needs someone to tell them it's going to be okay. Or even if you can, providing that financial support.

You know, you might not be able to give them a stable home or a stable job, but you can help them with some immediate needs in the short term. And that could be the difference between choosing life or not. So there's so many things we can do just in our own lives with our own families. And hey, I'm a married man and I have a young daughter at home. Just going home every day and just loving our spouses and loving our children in the way that God loves us makes so much different that we don't really see to really building up a sense of faith in our country and a sense of family once again. Good point. Just go home and love your own family.

That's a great place to start as well. What about churches? How important of a role do or can churches play in starting to rebuild the American family? They're essential. You know, civil society, the whole always is going to play a role, but the church has to be at the forefront.

Why? Because God created this institution of marriage and the family. It's ordained by him. And so if we want to restore families and we want to restore a sense of faith in society, it has to stem from the church, right? Just re-acknowledging how important the family is, I think that's something churches overlook.

They feel like they have to have the solution. They have to provide maybe all the financial resources to the families in their community to make a difference. Just preaching the word that family matters and family is a man and a woman in love, modeling the love that God has for his people, us and children. I think that's a great first step.

And then really it is helping starting there. And then from that, growing out how the church can really serve the families in your community, whether that is maybe a school or childcare, church-based, faith-based childcare to help families that maybe have to have two working parents supporting families when they face crises. So churches need to preach the truth, begin with that stable foundation, which we've sort of lost. And from out there, meet people in the immediate needs that they may have.

They're going to look different for everybody. But just being that friendly face when someone's down is going to really bring someone into a church and help them stay in a church community instead of letting them drift off or feel like the church wasn't there for them. Being there to bring these families together if they do face a crisis, I think is a great place to start. Are there some policies that we can pursue that will help us along the way here?

There are, and I love how this conversation went. You always want to start with what can we practically do first within our communities? And there's always going to be a policy solution at the end of the day can help support that.

So we at FRC it. What we're trying to do for our policy solutions moving forward is that again, like I mentioned, these issues instead of being isolated, okay, let's just tackle abortion and push policies just to stop abortions. Or let's just try to shore up marriage or fight against same sex marriage. Instead of looking at these things isolatedly, we're starting to look at these things together as a whole. How do we help support families, establish what families truly are, not some vague definition that's always changing. What is a family? Why are they important to society?

And how can our local governments, our state governments or federal governments support them? Part of it, unfortunately, is just how the economy goes. So goes the family. The families in the economy are very tied together.

Why? Because families need to support their family and it takes working hard to do that. So when the economy is struggling, usually the families do too. So we need to shore up an economy that puts families first.

So looking at things like tax credits that can really help families or just helping get men that maybe lost their jobs or out of the workforce because of COVID back working again, supporting and providing for their families. So that's one place we're starting an economy, but also just reestablishing the importance of marriage. States and local governments have such a great opening to really reestablish the importance of marriage in their same communities. Maybe repealing no fault divorce is years away, but starting with educating people about what divorce is before going through divorce, helping incentivize marriage counseling, if not requiring it. Those are things state and local governments can do to really shore up marriages. And then again, the more that marriage is stabilized, the less likely women may be to choose abortion. And so our welfare policies, whether federally or at the state level, we're trying to get away from incentivizing single motherhood. If our welfare policies, for instance, incentivize single women to stay single instead of getting married, it's just replaced by the government.

So it doesn't mean we don't want any resources going out to women in need. But always with the forefront that work is important and that family is always going to do a better job at helping a woman or anyone in need than the government can. So we're looking at things like that to really tinker around, support marriage and those trickle down effects of abortion and just being there through our public policy to establish marriage, family, work and how important it is. And even if it takes a while, little by little, we hope that policies like this all across our country and different solutions here in Congress can really start to make a difference to reestablish families. Connor Semelsberger, where can our listeners go to read your article?

The American family is disintegrating. The rebuild needs to start in our own homes and to follow your other work. So you can check FRC out at You can find all our policy papers and great documentaries and videos and everything. But to check out this article specifically, check out our news outlets, which is called the Washington Stand. will get you right there.

Check out this and many more articles to come. Connor Semelsberger, Director of Federal Affairs for Life and Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. Thanks so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.

You've been listening to Family Policy Matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plan to tune in again next week. To listen to this show online and to learn more about NC Families work to inform, encourage and inspire families across North Carolina, go to our website at That's Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family. Thank you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-02 09:29:57 / 2023-01-02 09:37:08 / 7

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