If you think child brides are the stuff of faraway cultures, think again. In 2017, child marriage was legal in all 50 U.S. states. Only recently have survivors started chipping away at the practice, using their nightmarish stories to put a stop to the abuse of (mostly) young girls. California was next in line to outlaw the horror, until a shocking number of national groups swooped in to keep the under-18 unions legal. Who are they and how can they justify their crusade? Answer: social extremists with one goal — protecting teenage abortion and transgenderism.
She was still playing with Barbies when a man almost twice her age put a ring on her finger and called himself her “fiancé.” The rapes would happen “two and three times a week,” and Carol never told anyone. She was 12. Two years later, her 20-year-old abuser drove her to the doctor, suspecting she was pregnant. “Tell them you begged for sex,” he coached her. “Tell them I fought you off, tell them you pursued me! Tell them anything or I’m going to jail!”
“At the doctor, I sat silent,” Carol remembers. “I was alone. The doctor said since I was pregnant, I was considered an adult and could make my own choices. My ‘fiancé’ said, ‘You better tell them you want to marry me, or the state will take you away to a shelter, and you may not survive.’ Upon returning home, I told my mom I wanted to get married.”
The next day, they went to the courthouse and got married. “No one questioned the 14-year-old crying profusely.” Carol’s new husband ordered her to quit school, sparking a five-year cycle of sexual abuse where she lived in a maggot-infested house without electricity and two babies.
Four decades, three husbands, and six children later, she’s still traumatized. Married to a good man for more than 30 years, she says, “I have fought hard and been through many things, some of which I can’t even mention. I have had horrible PTSD. … What did that 20-year-old man take away from that 14-year-old girl? EVERYTHING. He took away my youth, my desire for a successful career, knowledge, travel, identity, respect, and the list goes on. But one thing he never took away was hope: Hope that one day, I will be of some use to someone to help them get to a better life.”
Horror stories like Carol’s are astonishingly common. More than 300,000 children under age 18 were legally married in the U.S. between 2000-2018. Delaware and New Jersey were the first to take on the crisis — a crisis most Americans had no idea existed. After nine states did away with marriages for minors, pressure started ramping up in other areas of the country to end the predatory practice this year, including blue states like California.
To everyone’s shock, the Left’s big guns started coming out of the woodwork, vehemently opposing the bills that ended child marriage (which is considered a human rights violation by even the liberal United Nations). Democrats like former state Sen. Jerry Hill were blown away by the resistance they faced six years ago to stop under-18 marriages. They made it “pretty clear I was not going to be able to do this,” he said, calling it “the big shock of my life” to discover that the Golden State allowed children to marry. “I was amazed and appalled and frankly ashamed of California, that we had not done anything about this,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
While survivors in wedding dresses and chains marched through Sacramento to protest the current laws, Planned Parenthood, Children’s Law Center, and the ACLU are fighting to keep young girls shackled. According to Newsweek, the groups are worried that putting an age limit on marriage would somehow spillover to ban abortions or gender transitions.
Jonathan Keller, president of California Family Council, wishes it was a joke. It isn’t. On “Washington Watch” Friday, he called it absolutely “tragic” to see how extreme the Left has become. The idea that groups like Planned Parenthood would lobby to keep girls locked in legal relationships with (in many cases) sadistic abusers, should be a bridge too far for even them. But then, that’s the business model: early sex, more abortions. Whether or not it’s consensual matters little to the industry’s profit sharks.
Like most people, guest host and former Congressman Jody Hice couldn’t believe the soullessness of the Left. “I felt like I was reading something from the Babylon Bee,” he told Keller.
“Essentially, what we have is liberal legislators and liberal activist groups that are saying, ‘The very most important thing for us as an organization … is to protect the rights of young people to make these very serious decisions related to their sexual identity, their gender identity, or even the life of children in the womb,’” Keller explained. “And as a result, they don’t even want to risk the fact that opening the door and saying maybe children shouldn’t be making these types of decisions … [because it might] affect them being able to choose abortion. And that’s exactly what Planned Parenthood has been saying.”
Unfortunately, Keller thinks the Left’s sudden involvement might sink the bill for now. “I don’t think that it’s probably going to make it through this legislative session,” he admitted. “I think next year it’s possible that that could come back.” In the meantime, Americans are getting a real lesson in the lengths the Left will go to harm children.
“[I]t exposes, I think, how the Left — instead of trying to protect children — [is] really doing everything they can to all but emancipate them from their parents in everything … but name,” Keller warned. “And we saw this a couple of years ago where there was a bill that tried to expand the ability of children to have sexual relationships with people up to 10 years older than them, with lowering penalties, making it much less likely that the adults would be prosecuted and punished.”
“AB 665 would even would allow young people as young as 12 to check themselves into a residential treatment facility for the purposes of a of obtaining gender affirming care. So this thing regarding child marriages, these other bills regarding gender transition, it’s all part of the same poisonous fruit that we see coming out of Sacramento.”
“It’s just ugly,” Hice agreed. “It’s vile in every way that there’s not even a desire from these [extremists] to stand up and protect children in any capacity.” But then, as FRC’s Quena Gonzalez pointed out, it’s abortion: “First, last, and always.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.
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