Motherless or fatherless, on purpose

Joseph Backholm is senior fellow for Biblical worldview and strategic engagement at the Family Research Council. This article appeared in WORLD Magazine on September 9, 2022.

California Congressman Adam Schiff has introduced legislation purporting to help people struggling with infertility, but this proposed solution creates a much more serious problem. Approximately 12 percent of married women have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy, which creates emotional, physical, and even financial stress. While government can do little for the emotional stress, the U.S. government has long provided tax-deductions for infertility related expenses.

Governments have provided these benefits because children are both a personal blessing and a social good. Bad things happen when societies don’t have enough children, which is why many countries are now paying their citizens to have babies. A few years ago, Hungary decided to effectively pay women 30,000 euros if they have at least 3 children and as a result they are experiencing their highest birth rate in three decades.

In the United States, the ability to receive tax benefits for fertility treatments requires beneficiaries to be in a heterosexual relationship since they are the only relationships that provide an expectation (or natural possibility) of fertility. But sexual revolutionaries see recognition of biological truth as a grave injustice.

LGBT activist groups created model legislation that would redefine “infertility” to include those who cannot reproduce “either as a single individual or with a partner without medical intervention.” Under this definition, single people, as well as people in same-sex relationships, could be “infertile,” which only makes sense in a world where men can get pregnant and no one can define what a woman is.

Rep. Schiff has picked up the mantle for this cause by sponsoring the Equal Access to Reproductive Care Act. In a press release announcing the legislation, Rep. Schiff said, “But right now, our tax code is sorely outdated and makes it harder for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples to afford treatments to bring children into their families, such as IVF. This bill would rectify this iniquity by allowing LGBTQ+ couples to deduct the cost of assisted reproductive treatments as a medical expense—a privilege heterosexual couples already have.” Yes, he used the word “iniquity,” while he surely meant “inequity.” That is as ironic as it gets.

Setting aside the question of whether same-sex couples can be “infertile,” the more serious question is whether we should ever encourage the use of technology to bring children into the world when they are guaranteed to be missing one or both of their biological parents.

If we believe children are an accessory that exist to meet the needs of adults, we don’t need to think deeply about the best interest of the child in these situations. Rep. Schiff expressed a distinctly adult-centered view of the parent/child relationship in defense of his legislation when he said, “Every person regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, or relationship status deserves the same opportunity to start and expand a family.”

In his view, the adults deserve the child simply because they want the child. Any disadvantage the child experiences by being commodified and denied a relationship with one or both of his or her parents is outweighed by the emotional satisfaction the adults will experience.

However, if the needs of children are primary, a child’s right to be known and loved by his or her mother and father is more important than the adult desire to have a child. After all, men cannot mother and women cannot father. Children need both mothers and fathers. In a world focused on the needs of the adults, this doesn’t matter. However, in a better world, a world focused on the best interest of children, adults are not entitled to children when those children will be disadvantaged as a result. The moral dimensions of modern “reproductive technologies” must also be taken into account.

We live in a broken world, which means the ideal is not always possible. Adoption is a beautiful example of how we can make the best of situations that are already broken. Still, making the best of difficult circumstances is very different than creating difficult circumstances on purpose, which is exactly what Rep. Schiff’s Equal Access to Reproductive Care Act would do.