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April 23, 2015

DOES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE INCREASE ABORTIONS?:  According to an unusual amicus brief filed by “100 Scholars of Marriage,” the answer is “yes.”  The brief is one of many “friend of the court” briefs submitted in the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges, slated for Supreme Court oral argument next Tuesday (Apr. 28).

One might understandably inquire, “How could recognizing same-sex marriage increase the number of abortions?” According to a summary penned  by the brief’s author, D.C. attorney Gene Schaerr (a former Scalia clerk):

The metamorphosis of marriage from a gendered to a genderless institution conveys to men (and women) that society no longer needs men to bond to women to form well-functioning families or to raise happy, well-adjusted children. And that message is especially likely to be influential among those on the margins: the poor, the relatively uneducated or others who are highly influenced by cultural messages promoting casual or uncommitted sex.

The weakening or destruction of these norms would result in fewer marriages, more procreation out of marriage, and a higher percentage of children raised in a home without both parents—usually without a father. The consequences would be stark and disastrous: more childhood poverty; increased psychological and emotional problems; more teenage pregnancy; poorer performance in school; higher amounts of substance abuse; more youth committing crimes; and more girls undergoing abortions.

Schaerr’s estimates of increased abortions are very specific:

Accordingly, with 1.275 million additional women never getting married, nearly 900,000 more children of the next generation would be aborted as a result of their mothers never marrying. This is equal to the entire population of the cities of Sacramento and Atlanta combined.

I’m frankly not sure what to make of this.  The problem, as Schaerr freely admits, is that there is no hard statistical evidence that recognizing same-sex marriage would actually cause these consequences. And the limited data that is available suggests that the availability of same-sex marriage does not cause a decline in opposite-sex marriage rates.

On the other hand, there is something instinctive about the notion that if the definition of marriage keeps expanding–even beyond same-sex unions of two adults–its meaning will be diluted and, over time, its value and prevalence.  But this is a slippery slope argument, and the slope isn’t always as slippery as one fears, though it may be somewhat slippery.

The dilution and devaluation may not happen with recognition of same-sex marriage alone, but what if a recognition of same-sex marriage leads to recognition of consensual adult bigamous, polygamous or incestuous unions?  Would “marriage,” defined this broadly, still be something as deeply valued as it is today?  Or is it akin to giving every kid on the team a trophy– i.e., everybody gets one, so it isn’t so special anymore?  Or if marriage continues to be perceived of as a union based on “love,” is there sufficient love to go around, such that a greater number and variety of love-based unions won’t dilute the specialness of marriage?

Given the seeming inevitability of a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, how broad marriage becomes– and thus how “special” it is perceived–will be determined by our children, or grandchildren.