Andrew Bolt, the most right-wing of Australia's newspaper columnists, gave his opinion recently on whether she was doing the right thing.
Bolt believes that it's OK for people to take an interest in Elizabeth Adeney's choice, as we ought to care how children are raised:
... In Ms Adeney's case there are even more grounds to worry that her child will start with less than he or she deserves ... The child will know no father, for instance ... Nor will he or she have many relatives around, either, since Ms Adeney reportedly has no family in Britain ... Ms Adeny has been married only briefly, about 20 years ago. Does she really know what it's like to share a life, and does she understand how much of her own she will owe to her child?
This all sounds reasonable. The child will not have a father, and possibly won't even have a mother while it is still young. These are significant reasons for opposing Ms Adeney's choice.
But then Bolt shows why he is not really a conservative. He goes on to argue, on terrible grounds, that we should support 66-year-old women having children:
You see, so many children are indeed denied what they are owed, and not by mums past menopause.
I see hurt children whose dads have left and never call. Children whose mothers treat them as the foul shackles that kept them from soaring. Children who must daily witness their parents tearing into each other. Children treated as too much effort for the reward. Children who don't know which parent's house they'll get a welcome in from one day to the next.
Breaks your heart.
Here, though, is at least one child wanted so badly that her mother risks her body and the world's lectures just to have her. You could say the same of a child of lesbian mothers, too.
It's quite true, this child may soon be an orphan, far too young.
But what will that child cry then? That it was better never to have been born?
Or better to have been given life - and love? I think I know.
So it's all OK because:
1) There are families with younger mothers who don't treat their children well.
2) Elizabeth Adeney is going through a lot to have a child so must want one very badly.
3) The child will prefer to have been born, even to an older mother, than never born at all.
You could justify anything on these grounds. A father who goes around impregnating women and then absconding is justified. After all, the resulting children would rather they had been born than not, wouldn't they? And anyway, some families where the father actually sticks around are also dysfunctional, aren't they?
And what about a man who commits bigamy? He would have to want his wives and children really badly to put in the extra effort and expense required to run two households, wouldn't he? The children would rather they had been born than not at all, wouldn't they?
Each of Bolt's justifications is terribly wrong. It's not the strength of a want which makes it moral. Nor does the inevitable imperfection of an institution justify letting go of all standards. And the fact that it's preferable to have been born than not at all doesn't turn immoral decisions into moral ones.
By Bolt's reasoning, a young woman who chooses to have seven children by seven different fathers as a single mother living off welfare is ultimately morally justified.
Perhaps you think that Bolt is just trying to be a "compassionate conservative". But his arguments will only lead to more kids in the future having to deal with the absence of a parent, or living in poverty, or uncertain of their ancestry and identity.
What he could have argued, in order to be compassionate, is that we should be doing more to improve the chances of young people forming families in their 20s - rather than in their 60s. Family formation can be made either easier or more difficult for young people; I don't think there's any doubt that it's been made more difficult in recent decades.
If conservatives took the issue seriously we could win an audience from the many young people frustrated by the difficulties they now face in marrying and having children.