OPINION: Families are our foundation

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Mar. 17—Family is the lifeblood of our existence. Take family and children away and all that we are will cease to exist.

In his book, "A Painted House," John Grisham weaves a tale inspired by his childhood.

The setting is a cotton farm in Arkansas. Luke, the 7-year-old son and grandson, tells the story. He lives on the farm with his mother, father, grandmother and grandfather. They share meals, listen to the Cardinals baseball games on the radio, take trips to town and pick cotton together on their 40-acre farm.

Nothing about their life sounds easy, comfortable or convenient. But it is good.

Children are a joy who can sometimes feel like a burden. When they are newborn they demand their every need be met. Parenting a child to a grown man or woman requires discipline and sacrifice. Children must be fed, clothed and housed. Children must be loved, corrected, encouraged and disciplined. Children must be taught self-control and how to be productive. Children must be educated.

Somehow, through it all, parents and children, as they progress through growth and development, emerge stronger and wiser, and capable of repeating the process over and over.

Children change our lives and our lifestyle. They require us to share our time, energy, money and space. Then they mature. They acquire skills and knowledge. They take responsibility and contribute to our collective economic and social well-being.

So why do we seem so intent on avoiding or eliminating children?

Our own Hoosier legislature is seeking to make birth control more accessible by allowing pharmacists to dispense it without a doctor's prescription. Since the overturn of Roe v Wade some states have vigorously sought to ensure abortion is available for pregnant women who choose to terminate their pregnancy.

Have we misplaced our priorities? Is the prevention of children the answer?

China concocted a disastrous one-child policy begun in 1980. Chinese officials felt their population was growing to unsustainable levels. In short, they chose to avoid children. In 2020 the fertility rate was a mere 1.3 children per woman. Recently they have realized what a horrible mistake they have made. No longer do they have the workers they need to maintain their economic engine or the soldiers they need to build their military.

The social safety net we all rely on in the U.S. was built on the premise that children would be born, join the workforce, produce, pay taxes and fund the benefits provided to the elderly and needy. But since around 1980 the fertility rate here has been less than 1.8 children per woman. In order to sustain our population and therefore our overall welfare, that rate has to increase to more than 2.1.

Why we avoid procreation is a mystery. It is time to redirect social programs toward encouraging marriage, family and children.

The lack of children is an existential threat. It's time to quit discussing the ways to avoid them and begin encouraging and enabling aspiring parents.