The Same-Sex-Parenting v Pro-life Conundrum?
During a recent conversation about same-sex parenting, a friend of mine made an interesting segue into the abortion topic that I thought would be instructional to share here.
The conversation had gotten onto same-sex marriage and homosexual parenting. He already knew from previous conversations that I didn’t support either of these. He also knew that I didn’t support abortion and introduced the topic to the conversation to point out an apparent conflict – not necessarily in the views themselves, but in holding them both at the same time.
Greg Koukl gives an example of this:
Those who are quick to object that God isn’t doing enough about evil in the world (“A good God wouldn’t let that happen”) are often equally quick to complain when God puts His foot down (“A loving God would never send anyone to hell”). If He appears indifferent to wickedness, His goodness is challenged. Yet if He acts to punish sin, His love is in question. These objections compete with each other. They are siblings in rivalry. One or the other needs to be surrendered. Both can’t be held simultaneously.
In the context of our conversation then, the intention was to show that my commitment to the pro-life position competes with my commitment to heterosexual married parenting. At this point I empathise with anyone who is struggling to conceive exactly how one makes a connection between the two. I confess, if I was not privy to the conversation, I could not have contrived the logical sequence that I am now about to share.
It goes something like this:
The Basic Premises:
- Same-sex parenting is not good for children
- Heterosexual parenting is best for children
- Abortion is not good because it kills children
- Banning abortions is good because it protects children
- Banning abortions would significantly increase the number of unwanted children because of the likelihood that mothers (who are now forced to give birth to children that they actually wanted to kill) still wouldn’t want them after they’re born, thereby increasing the number of children up for adoption.
- The increase in numbers of children now up for adoption would exceed the demand. That is, there would not be enough heterosexual couples to home all the unwanted children that would have otherwise been killed.
- These additional unwanted children would now have to go other homes, including same-sex households (either under foster care as State Wards or by means of adoption), thereby placing children in an environment that is not good for them.
Therefore, you should not act on your belief that abortion is wrong (e.g. by writing letters to influence parliamentary voting on abortion, or supporting groups that picket abortion clinics, etc.) because it will result in children being placed in the care of homosexual parents.
And there you have it. The alleged sibling rivalry. In short, actively pursuing the protection of unborn children to ensure the State legislates against abortion ultimately leads to more children being raised by same-sex couples. To avoid the conflict then, one view must be surrendered. Either I stop supporting the pro-life movement and allow mothers access to abortion on demand, or I abandon my view that same-sex parenting is not in the best interests of children, because after all, that’s who is going to be raising all these extra kids I’ve forced mothers to spawn.
To be clear, the basic premises are essentially my own. These are the premises that my friend believes are in conflict. I am not going to contend for those premises here. I’m merely taking ownership of them. However, the additional claims presented in the second portion of the argument are not mine and contain propositions that intend to demonstrate the conflict. I address each one of them below.
Prop 1: Banning abortions would significantly increase the numbers of unwanted children; meaning, they remain unwanted after birth – at least by the birth parent(s).
As I understand it, this claim rests on the presumption that the majority of children born to parents who would’ve killed them in utero (had the law allowed it), will instead be given up by the parent(s) for adoption. However this reasoning commits a logical fallacy known as a false dilemma, as it fails to consider other possibilities that may reduce the number of adopted children. Consider for example, parents who – having been prevented by law from killing their unborn child – choose instead to raise the child themselves after it is born.
This is a heavily condensed and paraphrased discussion with my pro-choice friend (I’ll call her Lisa) on how this possibility might arise.
Lisa: “If my teenage daughter got pregnant as the result of a rape I would have no hesitation in getting her an abortion.”
Duane: “Would you consider other options, such as adoption?
Lisa: [shocked] “No! How can you give birth to a child and just give it away like that!? I would never do that.”
If abortion were illegal then, Lisa might in fact encourage her daughter to carry her unwanted baby to term and continue to care for the child just as she would any other of her children, thereby not adding to the list of adoptive children. This of course is purely anecdotal, but to demonstrate a false dilemma I need only provide one reasonable alternative.
If abortion were illegal though, how do we determine to what extent this will affect the number of children up for adoption? To cite an oft-used statistic, there are approximately 100,000 abortions performed in Australia each year. So then, even if Prop 1 is somewhat true, the number of additional children needing to be homed each year is approaching 50,000.
So should we expect the numbers of children up for adoption to increase by 50,000 each year if abortion is illegal? Well, that depends. These kinds of figures are only realised if a significant number of parents were willing – having witnessed the birth of their child – to place their child up for adoption. So far I have been unable to find any statistical information that addresses this. And even if it did exist, because abortions are accessible, any statistics would be largely survey-based and drawn from hypothetical questions about what people think they would do if abortion was illegal. Also, I can conceive that many parents may indeed be won over by meeting their new born child and begin to develop that special, almost ineffable, post-natal bond. Some may also feel duty bound to care for the child. Still others may have parents who willingly take up the responsibility to care for their new grandchild. There are many possibilities, it seems to me, that could contribute to reducing the numbers of children that end up on adoption lists. So it not necessarily the case that “banning abortions would significantly increase the numbers of unwanted children.”
But when it comes to quantifying the significance of these factors, I’m not sure how to go about it. Approximately how much of 100,000 is negated by post-natal bonding or a deep-seeded duty or doting grandparents? The most honest answer I can give is I don’t know. What I am fairly certain of however, is that it does not necessarily follow that banning abortions would significantly increase the number of children up for adoption. But in saying that, it may turn out that quantifying the affects of these factors is unimportant, as I am about to demonstrate.
Prop 2: The number of babies up for adoption would exceed the number of heterosexual couples wanting to adopt.
At this point I look to U.S. estimates because the numbers involved are more quantifiable than Australian figures and also much easier to come by.
It is estimated that there are 30 to 40 couples waiting to adopt for every one infant that is put up for adoption according to Allan Hazlett, the president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.
There are no national statistics on how many people are waiting to adopt, but experts estimate it is somewhere between one and two million couples.
There are about two million couples waiting [to adopt]. Furthermore, each of these couples would want two or three, if available. Many will take hard-to-place children with special needs. … There is a long waiting list for Downs Syndrome babies. There is a national organization of parents of Spina Bifida babies. At this writing, over 100 couples are on the waiting list to adopt such a baby, no matter how severe their problem.
4% of non-marital births are placed for adoption. In the U.S. this is about 50,000 non-related adoptions a year compared to 1,500,000 babies aborted.
Or to put it plainly, it would appear that the number of couples wanting to adopt exceed the numbers of children that are killed in utero. Therefore, Prop 2 is false, with one concession. When the sources refer to “couples” I do not know if they mean heterosexual couples or merely any couple. So an estimate of “30 to 40 couples waiting to adopt for every one infant”, or “somewhere between one and two million couples” may include same–sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples.
Prop 3: Children that could not be homed with heterosexual couples would end up being raised by same-sex couples.
The likelihood of this proposition succeeding depends on the reliability of estimates provided above, where I addressed Prop 2. If the demand for children by heterosexual couples exceeds the amount of aborted children, then it isn’t a necessary consequence that children would end up being raised by same-sex couples. In addition, the circumstances described in addressing Prop 1 would also serve to reduce the final adoption figure. That is, one million aborted babies under the current law does not necessarily equate to one million adopted babies under anti-abortion law because there are good reasons to believe that many children would still be raised by their own parents or a close family member. Therefore, Prop 3 is arguably false.
But here’s where the reasoning completely fails. Even if we grant all three propositions, the conclusion – that I ought not oppose abortion – still does not follow. It’s a non-sequitur. That is, the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises.
Consider this. I believe the murder of innocent human beings is more heinous than allowing same-sex couples to raise children. Given this clarification then, regardless of how many children are on adoption registers or who ends up raising them, this can never justify killing a child. Homing an excessive number of children may be troublesome, but that problem is not resolved by killing all the children in adoption centres. Similarly then, killing them before they are born and subsequently become wards of the State, is also unconscionable.
Therefore I can still reasonably and consistently hold that both abortion and same-sex parenting are “not good” – watch this – even if that means some of these children end up being raised by same-sex couples. The alternative – murdering an innocent child – is not an acceptable alternative. And so, the views are not in conflict.
The view that same-sex parenting is not in the best interests of children, is not at odds with the desire to minimise or eradicate abortions. The arguments presented to establish the conflict commit at least two logical fallacies. 1) False Dilemma and 2) Non-Sequitur.
References & Notes:
“Sibling Rivalry” http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5625 – Accessed 18th October, 2012
These are the premises, consisting of four statements that the proceeding argument is attempting to show are at odds with one another.
When I say same-sex parenting is not good for children, I mean it is not in their best interests. In the same way, single parenting is also not good for children. Neither are desirable circumstance we would purposefully establish for the raising of children.
This section attempts to demonstrate how the premises compete with each other.
While unrelated to the point here, note the apparent cognitive dissonance involved in believing that putting your child up for adoption is more heinous than killing your child.
Compare this with recent adoption figures in a recent report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. “The 384 finalised adoptions in 2010–11 was the lowest annual number on record.”
http://www.texasrighttolife.com/about/188/Facts-Concerning-Adoption – Accessed 22 October, 2012
http://www.pregnantpause.org/adopt/wanted.htm – Accessed 22 October, 2012
http://www.abortionfacts.com/…/why_cant_we_love_them_both_34.asp – Accessed 22 October, 2012