Wisconsin Bill Claims Single Moms Cause Child Abuse by Not Being Married

A state senator in Wisconsin says being single causes child abuse and neglect.
A state senator in Wisconsin says being single causes child abuse and neglect.

In Wisconsin, a state senator has introduced a bill aimed at penalizing single mothers by calling their unmarried status a contributing factor in child abuse and neglect.

Senate Bill 507, introduced by Republican Senator Glenn Grothman, moves to amend existing state law by "requiring the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect."

The bill would require educational and public awareness campaigns held by the board to emphasize that not being married is abusive and neglectful of children, and to underscore "the role of fathers in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect."

Saying that people "make fun of old-fashioned families," Grothman -- who has never been married and has no children -- criticized social workers for not agreeing that children should only be raised by two married biological parents, and told a state Senate committee that he hopes the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention board, of which he's a member, could "publicize something that's politically incorrect but has to be said in our society."

"Whether that leads to more people paying attention and having children after they're married or whether that leads to some others making a choice for adoptions," he said.

A third of all parents in Wisconsin are single. Given that single mothers far outnumber single fathers in the state and in the rest of the country, and given the emphasis on fathers being part of the solution rather than part of the problem, many people feel that the bill is tantamount to an attack on single moms.

At Tuesday's meeting of the state Senate Committee on Public Health, Human Services, and Revenue, lawmakers and members of the public spoke out against the proposal.

"This bill is going to do nothing to help children avoid abuse. It's going to do nothing to help families," Democratic state Representative Chris Taylor said at the meeting. "What this bill does is call out and chastise women who have babies who are unmarried."

Grothman has advanced and supported other policies "that make it harder to access prevention-based health services so that they can prevent pregnancy, so that they're not in a situations here they have an unintended or unwanted pregnancy," Taylor added.

Grothman is also the sponsor of Wisconsin State Bill 202, which would repeal the state's Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Last year he claimed in an essay that the "Left and the social welfare establishment want children born out of wedlock because they are far more likely to be dependent on the government."

In "How The United States and The State of Wisconsin Are Working to Encourage Single Motherhood and Discouraging Children in 2-Parent Families," he wrote that the government urges women not to get married by making programs like low-income housing assistance, school choice, WIC, tax credits, and food stamps more attractive than marriage.

His solution? Restrict the types of foods that can be purchased with food stamps, make Section 8 housing more cramped and limit the value of assets owned living there to $2,000, and eliminate school choice, among other things. "It is inexcusable that a single mother making $15,000 gets her kid out of the Milwaukee Public Schools but a married couple earning $50,000 is stuck in the public schools," he wrote. "It is also somewhat outrageous that some married couples feel they can only afford one or two children in part because they are paying excessive taxes to provide programs for someone else to have four or five children.

Edward Kuharski of Madison, Wisconsin, spoke out against the bill, calling it "off target."

"I don't understand a bill that's just about stating an opinion," he said, "and that appears to be the entire purpose of this bill, simply to assert an opinion and impose it upon an expert body that knows perfectly well how to do its business."

"Senator Grothman has no experience in parenting," Kuharski pointed out. "The contribution of institutional increase in neglect and abuse of children … has nothing to do with what you learned in Sunday school. Nothing. Before you put a larger target on the back of the people that you have attacked through many other bills, stop and take some responsibility for it."

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