[This post is a collaboration between Meg Stout and Lucinda Hancock. The illustration is courtesy of Pat Chiu.]
Bottom Line Up Front: This is not about what has happened in the past for those who are now parents. It is about what individuals who wish to become parents do in their future, and how current parents who used non-traditional methods of becoming a parent treat their child.
Last year Lucinda Hancock wrote Paradoxical Patriarchy. Lucinda explored the way marriage channels human desire for the good of children.
Recently Lucinda shared an article with Meg about a reckless fertility clinic where a sperm donor (father of 36 children born to 26 women) was discovered to be not the PhD candidate in neuroscience engineering as advertised, but a schizophrenic college drop-out and jailbird who is usually unemployed.
Responding to that article, Lucinda complained that much that afflicts society boils down to how we regard children, with many anti-traditionalists seeing parents as having a right to children, rather than children having a right to their parents.
Children begin life with no ability to arrange matters to meet their own interests. To enable children to thrive, successful societies throughout history have held parents to their duty to support the successful transition of children to adults. A right to marry and become a parent was the best way to preserve children’s right to their own parents. Marriage and its attendant traditions served the function of maximizing the chances that children would have the benefit of having meaningful help from their parents.
In contrast, moderns assert they have a right to marry that is independent of children. Bringing children into modern families is all about “making dreams come true” for the grown-up(s), with little regard for any natural right of a child to their parents. In our time, we regard the kind of traditions which steer individuals into marriage (and keep them there) as cruel, traditions like stigmatizing out-of-wedlock birth and divorce, as well as criminalizing sexual licentiousness, with attendant punishments.
The Redacted Wisdom of Jane Galt
In 2005 “Jane Galt”[ref]Jane Galt was a pseudonym. Given that she has removed her 2005 article from the Internet, I’ll not be the one to out her identity.[/ref] posted an insightful article that is now only available on the internet archive. At the time she pointed out that changing the rules of society (as proposed by gay marriage proponents) can have unforeseen consequences. Worse, the consequences can be exactly those foretold by the critic who at the time seemed like a hysterical negativist.
Galt said, “I am bothered by this specific argument, which I have heard over and over from the people I know who favor gay marriage laws. I mean, literally over and over; when they get into arguments, they just repeat it, again and again. “I will get married even if marriage is expanded to include gay people; I cannot imagine anyone up and deciding not to get married because gay people are getting married; therefore, the whole idea is ridiculous and bigoted.”
“They may well be right. Nonetheless, libertarians should know better. The limits of your imagination are not the limits of reality. Every government programme that libertarians have argued against has been defended at its inception with exactly this argument.”
Galt then discussed several instances where legal changes fundamentally altered society. She said these examples didn’t proclaim her to be opposed to same gender marriage. It was just that same gender marriage did have the potential to fundamentally alter society, as other rule changes have done in the past.
Galt’s first example was imposition of an income tax. When income taxation became law, some senators proposed to cap it at 10%. This proposal was shot down because it was believed no one would ever stand for taxes rising as high as 10%.
Galt then spoke of the compassionate changes to public housing. In the 1950s public housing had only been available to white traditional families. When the rules changed to allow for non-whites, it was also decided that rules requiring marriage were uncompassionate. Critics worried more women would choose to be single mothers under these changes. But the majority argued no one would ever choose to become an unmarried mother. Yet now, Galt pointed out, women “who wanted to get married essentially found themselves in competition for young men with women who were willing to have sex, and bear children, without forcing the men to take any responsibility.” By 1990 the rate of illegitimate births had skyrocketed, reached 70% in the black community. As far fewer than 70% of the black population lives in public housing, this shows how policy ostensibly for a limited portion of the populace can influence individuals well outside the population targeted by the policy.
Galt then talked about the liberalization of divorce laws, whigh reduced the social stigma of divorce. This accommodation turned marriage from an institution that most people remained in for a lifetime into a short-term and non-binding contract. When marriage was permanent, individuals were more serious about the initial decision, and more commited to making life easier given the high price of exit. People couldn’t believe that liberalization of divorce would affect every marriage. They believed average marriages would remain as solid as they had ever been. Surely no one would ever choose divorce just because it was easy. But with hindsight, we can see that when the price of divorce dropped, marriage ceased being about stability for children. Marriage became linked to fantasies regarding romance and friendship between spouses, expected to satisfy lofty promises of ultimate adult fulfillment. When the marriage relationship between the adults fails to meet these expectations and is terminated, the children are expected to just dealt with it.
Galt finished her essay suggesting that those advocating for same gender marriage consider the possibility that society might be altered if they got their way. In 2005 her essay was applauded. By 2012 her essay had been removed from the Internet.
Even thought Galt removed her essay, the impact of the laws she cites can be seen in the skyrocketing rate of illegitimacy and poverty in America, social ills that are disproportionately associated with children raised without fathers and the racial profiles where fathers were less likely to be encouraged to be responsible fathers by other factors, see the Heritage article on Marriage as America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty
But children do better when they are wanted, and I WANT A CHILD!
With the advent of reproductive technologies, children can be be created without heterosexual intercourse, as in the case of the mothers who had themselves impregnated using the sperm of the schizophrenic criminal. In other cases couples unable to produce a child due to any number of biological challenges can force their respective gametes to form a child.
Meg watched her daughter yearn for a child for seven years. But despite the tangible hunger her daughter frequently expressed to have a child, daughter and son-in-law came to the determination that if nature didn’t permit a child, there might be a genetic health issue causing the problem. Though nature ultimately decided to cooperate, Meg was struck by the maturity of their willingness to forego children of their own get if by forcing the issue they caused the produced child to risk unnecessary health problems.
Lucinda points out that it is not merely the health risks a child faces when they are forcibly produced through technological intervention. They are being created by individuals who believe they are entitled to children. This comes with the fundamental paradigm that ‘my child is there for me,’ rather than the other way around.
When marriage was effectively permanent it could be counted on to reliably connect a man and woman to their children. Laws reflected this in assigning paternity to the husband of the mother. As the primary purpose of marriage became divorced from duty toward children, some other means of assessing readiness for a child was needed.
As a society we settled on wantedness. A child, however created, would be best served by being wanted, we told ourselves. But in the shift, we forgot the fundamental yearning children have for connection to their own, biological parents.
Referring back to the article regarding the schizophrenic sperm donor, these dozens of women now have children whose biological heritage is something they never would have intentionally inflicted on a child. The mothers were sold the idea that they could have what they wanted in a child without the hassle of vetting potential fathers themselves. They really believed that there are great men out there who don’t mind selling off their their future children, because they’ve bought into the idea that what matters is whether a child is wanted (by the mother), rather than thinking about what a child would want. The more traditional idea is receiving children as a gift, despite the difficulties in fulfilling parental duties. But now children are procured or created to fill an adult’s need to be a parent.
Even Adoption is not Ideal
Adoption is noble from the perspective of the adults (and truly, an adult who volunteers to care for another’s child as their own is exhibiting exceptional character). Yet adoption fails to give a child their “real” parents. Some well-intentioned adoptive parents have asserted to the children they adopt that somehow being ‘wanted’ is *better* than just existing as the result of sex, which is no longer reflective of a conscious intent to invite and care for children. But this idea usually doesn’t have the desired effect of healing the adopted child. Instead the child is made to feel they’re ungrateful and bad for wishing they could have been raised by their own parents, wishing that their biological parents had wanted them.
Adoption is often a matter of extraordinary self-sacrifice when it is a commitment to alleviate the emotional burden of an abandoned child. But when it becomes a way to assert the superiority of intentional parenting, it moves away from being able to heal wounds, and moves toward delegitimizing the sense of loss experienced by children abandoned by parents. Indeed, the goodwill afforded to adoptive parents, who have stepped in as noble healers, has been coopted by the idea of superiority of intentional parenting, which has given peddlers of “create your dream family” abusive power over the lives of children.
While one can certainly hope that most adoptive parents are a blessing to the child, it is undeniable that adoption can be horribly abused, as seen in the Washington State cases of terrible and sometimes lethal abuse of adopted children from Ethiopia. The term “Re-homing” has been coined to explain the way unwanted adopted children are passed forward, as described in this Seattle Globalist article on international adoption.
Denying Ourselves all Ungodliness… For the Benefit of Our Children
Now that we might be acknowledging that where we currently are, as a culture, is not where humanity has always been, it may be beneficial to investigate where the sliding “norm” surrounding parenting went wrong.
Let us put forward an anecdote. We know a woman whose adoptive mother told her she wasn’t loved, because she wasn’t “really” the woman’s daughter. [Lucinda rants, “Where did this adoptive mother get the idea that adopting a child was about her feelings?”] Well did James write, “the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”
It may be coincidental, but this adopted woman ended up being raped two times in her youth. It seems reasonable to suspect that part of the vulnerability her attackers sensed could have been related to her sense that she was not a welcome child in her family, despite initially being “wanted.”
What is not coincidental is the finding that adopted children are more likely to be abused than children being raised by their biological parents. In a 1992 NIH study of why teenage girls become pregnant out of wedlock in Washington State, the majority had been abused, with over 40% having been assaulted.
Do we who are blessed with children deny ourselves cruel words and actions? When we do damage our children, do we beg God and our children for forgiveness?
If we do not yet have children, and are thinking of either procuring a child or creating a child outside of a traditional family structure, are we truly considering the needs of the child? Might it not be better to deny ourselves than fundamentally sever a child from their biological heritage for our selfish purposes?
[Divorce is another area where children are likely to suffer negative consequences, as explained by serious studies, such as this Joseph Rowntree study looking at the outcomes for children of divorce. Looking at my own family, I see how divorce created huge negative outcomes for my eldest daughter. She has overcome these, but it was a terrifying struggle.]
Children of God
We are children of God. Do we remember the obligation that comes with that? It is our obligation to remember the rights of children, these most vulnerable mortal members of our eternal family.
The prophet and apostles have already given us The Family Proclamation, part of which reads:
Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
To paraphrase King Benjamin:
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your children ye are only in the service of your God.
What would it look like if we really did support infants and children with a mind to serving their long-term interests? What if we cared about the loss they suffer when faced with parental abandonment. What if we refused to allow them to be bought and sold like chattel for the selfish gratification and status of adults? Do we have the courage to stand up to our own selfish desires in order to protect God’s children?
Malachi promised the day would come when Elijah would be sent to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I [the Lord] come and smite the earth with a curse.”
The temple is about linking us to our generations, both those who went before us and those who will come after us. It is a place for allowing each child to be linked to the family of mankind, to know their place in that human family.
Let us turn our hearts to God’s children, born or unborn. Despite the modern reformation of family occurring around us, let us be islands of solidity, where children are not prevented any chance of connection with one or both biological parents merely to fulfill selfish adult desires.
[This post is not just about single mothers getting inseminated or same gender couples creating a child. There are many ways that even seemingly “traditional” adults can treat children like chattel rather than respecting the right and need of a child to be raised in the best of circumstances, with a father and mother, ideally the biological father and mother of the child.]
P.S. – Given the delightful level of response this post has already gotten and the fact that I will not be around today to curate the comment chain, I am putting this on moderation. I will approve comments as I have time. Comments merely calling this post bilge and nonsense will not be approved, so do put something substantive and factual in your response. I have also done a few minor edits to clarify what Lucinda and I were trying to express.