When, a few weeks ago, it was revealed that Derbyshire sisters Natasha (16), Jade (14) and Jemma (12) had given birth to, respectively, T-Jay, Lita and Amani, there was media uproar. Their mother blamed their schools for providing poor quality sex education, and said that her daughters had ‘ruined their lives.’ The cost of child benefit, and other social security payments, was swiftly calculated, to show how much each of these errant teenage mums would cost the rest of us, hard working families in particular. Jemma (heroically) told the press about how she had resisted her boyfriend’s demands for her to terminate her pregnancy. Now (she said) she was ‘gutted,’ because he did not want to have anything more to do with her or T-Jay.
Christian tradition teaches that the right context for sexual intercourse is within marriage, and that, therefore, the right context for bringing children into the world is also within marriage. It is indeed alarming that these three young women (girls?) should find themselves in this situation.
Yet it is unquestionably less alarming – by an infinite order of magnitude – than the contemporary culture of abortion, which receives no serious challenge from the media. It is less alarming than the downwards economic spiral we have created, in which it is virtually impossible for all but the wealthiest women to be able to afford to look after their own children at home, as the government rolls out ever more extensive programmes of round-the-clock childcare.
It is less alarming than the social (and economic) cost to society of an ever higher proportion of people living alone, many of them inevitably requiring state care in their old age. It is less alarming than the declining birth rates in many Western European countries. It is less alarming, for sure, than the collapse in any sense of what it means to be a father, and to provide a good example for T-Jay, Lita and Amani’s dads to follow.
When we realize once again that the birth of every child is to be welcomed with delight as a new life, a gift from God, we can recapture some sense of which aspects of human behaviour really are outrageous.