Same-sex parent findings based of faulty studies

Posted: Feb 05, 2002 12:00 AM
Baby doctors of the world, unite! The American Academy of Pediatrics has just declared that same-sex parents are good for babies. "Children who are born to or adopted by one member of a same-sex couple deserve the security of two legally recognized parents," the academy says in its scientific journal, Pediatrics.

Are pediatricians just doing their public health duty? Are they reporting results of careful scientific studies that compare, say, health outcomes for children in the four states that permit second-person adoptions with outcomes for children in the other 46 states, which do not? No, of course not. The real issue here is not the well-being of children, but the sexual liberties of adults.

A review of the literature by Robert Lerner and Althea K. Nagai in the just-published scholarly volume "Revitalizing the Institution of Marriage for the Twenty-First Century" seriously questions the legitimacy of the research: Even dozens of small, flawed studies cannot and do not constitute proof that children do the same whether or not they have mothers and fathers. The response to their critique, from Dr. Judith Stacey, a sociologist at the University of California, in the prestigious American Sociological Review simply failed to address their central charge: that badly designed studies, no matter how often repeated, do not constitute sound scientific evidence.

What does this remind one of? Nothing so much as the urgent claims of divorce advocates in the '70s that "studies show" children of divorce do fine. An enormous amount of damage was done before more careful research created a new scholarly consensus that in fact, marriage matters a great deal.

I do not know if a child will be better off if, say, his or her mother's sexual partner is allowed to adopt. It depends on whether the potential benefits of child support outweigh the potential damage from the custody battles likely to ensue when romantic partners break up. (And same-sex relationships are statistically far more likely to break up than marriages.) I know of no good research on this question, but the potential for conflict is acute.

In the majority of divorces, custody issues are resolved by the spouses themselves and generally in favor of the mother getting physical custody, especially of young children. I suspect that when two moms battle for their baby, the battles are going to be harder to resolve, and if so, children may suffer a great deal because the law endorses such adoptions.

Adoption law is generally in a sorry state. Few if any states now have a formal preference for married couples in adoption law, despite a mountain of evidence that children do better when raised by married mothers and fathers. The laws' central presumption -- fathers are responsible for the children they make -- has been twisted out of recognition to accommodate the desire of adults to have babies on other terms. Laws that cut off paternal responsibilities in donor insemination, originally intended to help infertile married couples procreate, are now used to allow women to create legally fatherless children. Minnesota is considering new legislation that authorizes unlimited payments to surrogate mothers, perhaps so two male incomes can buy any babies they want. Radically fatherless and now radically motherless children are being created to suit the desires of adults, not because we know or believe that it is in the best interests of children to do so.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has embarrassed itself by wading into a controversy for which its members have no particular expertise at all. Baby doctors of the world, you might let your professional representatives know.