July 12, 2018
Kelly Clemente was like a lot of college freshmen -- she ran track, did well in her classes, and joined a sorority. Then, she made a decision that changed her life: she got pregnant. She remembers lying down on the road by her driveway and praying that a car would run over her. "I want to die," she thought. "I can't handle this." She talks about breaking the news to her Christian parents and the moment she knew, deep inside, that she should give this baby a chance -- with another family.
"I just remember being so grateful and proud," Kelly's dad says in the family's powerful sit-down with the Daily Signal. "I expected them to be angry," Kelly recounts, amazed. Instead of being disappointed, they promised to walk with her, grateful that their daughter was giving another family a gift they could appreciate: a child like they'd adopted in Kelly's little sister.
Walking into Bethany Christian Services turned out to be the answer to her prayers. She thought for sure the adoption agency would judge her. Instead, Kelly explains, "They showed me what it was like to walk with someone through the hardest time of their life when they are feeling so down on themselves and so alone, they were there." Before she had her little boy, Kelly says, "I thought the hardest day of my life would be finding out that I was pregnant," Kelly said. "It wasn't." Giving him to another family was. In the hard months that followed, she had one peace: Alex's new parents loved God.
Now, 10 years later, she says that being able to handpick her son's family was the greatest comfort she had. So when a movement started to take away that right from moms like her, she couldn't help but speak out. When liberal activists started punishing adoption agencies for making sure kids were placed in homes with matching beliefs, Kelly was horrified. She watched as the dominos started to fall in places like Philadelphia, Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and D.C. Suddenly, groups like Bethany and Catholic Charities were being given a choice: start putting children in homes that violate the morals of birth moms like Kelly, pay crushing fines, or shut your doors.
"I would never tell a gay couple, 'Oh, because you two are in love with each other, and you're not a heterosexual couple, don't even think about adopting a child.' That's not what I'm saying," Kelly explains in Heritage's new video. "What I am saying is that birth mothers have a right to choose." Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee agreed, voting 29-23 to protect the freedom of moms like Kelly. Thanks to adoption champions Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), the new Labor-HHS spending bill now includes an amendment that says the federal government can't discriminate against faith-based groups if they decide not to provide services like adoption or foster care on religious grounds. The bill also says that if a state or local government is found in violation, HHS will withhold up to 15 percent of the federal child welfare funding from the areas responsible.
"What occurred today is a milestone," Congressman Kelly celebrated. For "five years and three congresses, we've been fighting to advance the Inclusion Act against incredible obstacles," he said. "Now, it's finally going to see its day on the floor of the People's House. This is a win for the entire faith-based child welfare provider community and, most importantly, all the innocent children they serve who are waiting for forever homes." Congressmen like Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Evan Jenkins (R-W. Va.), John Carter (R-Texas), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) worked until well past midnight making this longtime religious liberty goal a reality.
The Democrats, meanwhile, continued cranking out lies about what the amendment really does, insisting that it somehow stops same-sex couples from adopting. Hardly! The same adoption agencies that matched them with kids before this bill will still be matching them with kids after. That's because this debate has never been about banning LGBT adoption -- it's about letting everyone operate by their own set of beliefs.
"Choosing to place your child for adoption is the hardest decision that I've ever made," Kelly Clemente says, "but what gave me reassurance was that at least I had control over the family that I was choosing. And for me that did include faith. They were committed to raising that child in a Christian home. I can understand why people might perceive that as intolerance, but what I would tell them is that when you're pregnant, that child is yours. If your priority is matching that family's faith to yours, that's your prerogative."
Of course, it's sad that we need amendments like this at all. But, as Rep. Kelly agreed, "This is not a fight that conservatives or the faith-based community started -- but it is one that we're ready to win. The Left's faith-shaming cannot be permitted to close the doors of one more adoption or foster care center in our country. For all the parents and providers who have been targeted and bullied by activists both inside and outside of government, today's passage is a sign of hope."
It's also a sign that House Republicans aren't about to help abortion groups snuff out lives like Alex's. Despite a fierce push to change the direction of HHS's new funding decisions, adoption wasn't the only big win in last night's debate. Conservatives blocked amendments that would have reinstated the large chunk of Title X "family planning" dollars to abortion businesses and boosted sexual risk avoidance (abstinence) funding to $30 million! Democrats also lost the fight to strip out the language of the bill defunding Planned Parenthood -- then watched as GOP leaders tacked on another win for religious freedom by adding the Conscience Protection Act. All in all, it may be one of the most pro-life, pro-values Labor-HHS spending proposals ever to come out of committee! Thanks to our pro-life leaders for moving America one step closer to building the culture of life this administration envisions!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.