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Austin Cline

Bush Supports Religious Discrimination in Adoption?

By June 7, 2005

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Religious conservatives are touting a program that has people "adopting" unused frozen embryos. The idea is that if these embryos can be "adopted," then they shouldn't be used for stem cell research. Even President Bush has supported the program - but does he know that it can discriminate against all but conservative Christians?

The New York Times reports:

People on this part of the political spectrum have begun calling the process "embryo adoption," echoing the phrase that Snowflakes uses instead of "embryo donation." The Health and Human Services Department has termed the process embryo adoption in certain grants. Bills that would formally call it "embryo adoption" have begun to filter into statehouses in California, New Jersey and Massachusetts, states that, not coincidentally, are at the forefront of legalizing and encouraging embryonic stem cell research.

Couples must agree to adoption-like procedures: receiving families are screened and must undergo counseling, and Snowflakes allows donating and receiving families to designate criteria for each other, meet and maintain contact after birth. Adopting couples must agree not to abort any embryos.

Those conditions were fine with Bob and Angie Deacon of Virginia Beach, Va., who donated their 13 embryos after having twins and being discouraged from another pregnancy by a doctor. "With another program, to be honest with you, they could have been adopted by lesbian parents, and I'm totally against that," said Mr. Deacon, 35.

It took two and a half years to bring themselves to fill out the papers. On their forms, they said the adopting family must be conservative Christians and, ideally, include a stay-at-home mother.

If all of this is done through private agencies, it's probably legal but still unethical if the embryos really are the equivalent of babies, then it's wrong to insist that only Christians should be allowed to "adopt" them. It's unlikely that all the embryos came from conservative Christian couples, so why should such couples be able to get special treatment when it comes to taking them?

If the government is giving money to help this, then it's probably illegal. The government shouldn't be giving taxpayer dollars to a program that will discriminate on the basis of religion. The government shouldn't fund a program that can privilege conservative Christians over liberal Christians, Jews, Hindus, or atheists. If people want their embryos adopted only by Christians (or Hindus, or Jews, or conservatives), they need to do so without public funding.

So, how much does President Bush know and when did he learn it? Does he actually support such religious discrimination?

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