Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Adoption wars

You’ve probably heard by now that Catholic Charities of Boston is getting out of the adoption business, a real shame given that agency’s extaordinary work with difficult-to-adopt kids. The problem, as Boston College Law School Dean John Garvey patiently explains, is that Massachusetts insists upon applying its anti-discrimination laws to faith-based organizations that supply social services. Mitt Romney’s proposal to exempt fbo’s is, I fear, a non-starter in Massachusetts, where the legislature clearly seems to think that its vision of equality is more important than religious freedom. As Garvey also points out, the issue here is not simply that shekels bring shackles, but that the licensing legislation that permits agencies to provide adoption services prohibits discrimination.

The consequences of this dispute are far-reaching, not just in the provision of adoption services across the country, but also in the battles over abortion and gay marriage. I’ll have more to say about the latter in tomorrow’s TAE Online piece, and so will for the moment restrict myself to abortion.

Although there are disputes about this (see, for example, here, here, and here), there is a movement afoot among some defenders of abortion to concede that abortion is bad, even evil, and to search for other means of reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies (chiefly sex education and contraception). This move is often associated with the assertion that pro-life groups don’t do enough on their end to help women avoid or manage pregnancies they can’t handle on their own. Obviously, making provision for adoptions is one way that pro-life groups can undertake to help reduce the number of abortions, regardless of the state of abortion law.

But folks on the other side of the debate can compel religious conservatives to pay a high moral price for these efforts, making them acquiesce in and effectively endorse gay parenthood and, by extension, gay marriage. This could drive some of them, as it seems to have driven the Roman Catholic Church, out of the adoption business. It goes without saying that this isn’t good for the children. And it weakens the political position of those who are fighting to limit abortions, because they can be accused of not doing all they can to assist women who feel obligated to carry their babies to term, but can’t care for them. To keep up on one front of the culture war, they may be compelled to surrender on another.

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The state of Massachusetts is violating the First Amendment, no?

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