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ss nucleus - winter 2005,  Ethical Enigma 10

Ethical Enigma 10

Response to Enigma 10: A gay couple comes to see you to seek your support in their request for adoption. How do you handle the situation? What will be your final position?

The current law allows married couples and single parents to adopt. Social workers assess the applicants and decide whether they are suitable for the child who needs parenting. From 2005 the law will change to make provision for unmarried couples to adopt. Our liberal government has made no stipulation, deliberately, to say whether the couple has to be hetero- or homosexual. Thus, from next year, a homosexual couple that desires to adopt a child will have an equal right to be considered by adoption agencies. This does not in fact confer a right for them to be approved for adoption, or for a child to be placed with them. In the same way as heterosexual couples are carefully selected, in depth assessment will be made of homosexual couples to ascertain suitability for parenting, and specifically for the child in question.

I find this deeply concerning. The Bible teaches from Genesis onwards that God has created heterosexual marriage for us, so that we may enjoy lifelong partnership, unconditional love, sexual union and procreation. As the family unit has gradually declined as the stable nucleus on which our society is built, society has rolled over and accepted the imperfections of single parenting and its consequences. In so doing it has come as far as saying that if 33% of marriages end in divorce then marriage is not that effective and we might as well settle for second best. If second best is good enough for biological parents, how can we possibly demand more than second best for adoptive parents?

Now you have a lesbian couple sat in front of you in your surgery, desperate to parent a child. They are sincere about their desire to nurture a child and of course, fully committed to their relationship with each other. They believe they have something special to offer an unwanted child, and are hurt by nature’s cruelty of denying them a child of their own. What do you do?

You will have to start by accepting that the law will soon allow them to apply for adoption. Explain my first paragraph to them. You cannot block their application: they do not need a referral from you to approach an adoption agency. The question is whether or not you take this opportunity to discourage them in any way or whether you might go so far as to challenge them on their lifestyle choice.

I have never been in this situation. I think you will have to pray for wisdom before you open your mouth. Remember that, if you believe the Bible to be God’s truth and his blueprint for the world, then he will not desire any child to be brought up in less than a stable, committed marriage relationship. Alas, this is not the case for a large proportion of British children. Do you feel able to encourage this pair to seek to adopt a child? If your conscience says, ‘No!’ then you need to challenge them about the nature of parenthood and whether they think they can offer a child a well-rounded upbringing. See where the conversation goes after that. Certainly be prepared with the truth if, and when,they ask for your opinion. You may not get to a full-on gospel presentation on our failure to live up to God’s standards and his offer of forgiveness, but be ready. If you are willing then the Holy Spirit may well make it possible. Take note that it is unlikely you’ll get through all this in one short consultation, so be prepared to have them back at another appointment.

Beware though. According to a social worker in our family, homosexual couples who apply are often very well read and know that they may get a tougher grilling than heterosexual couples. There is good evidence to support the relative instability of gay relationships when compared with heterosexual commitment, especially marriage. We cannot predict if any couple is going to stay together for 18 years until a child reaches adulthood. However, if we start with second best then we could easily end with third best.

The sad fact is there are insufficient couples prepared to adopt children, in particularly those with medical or social problems, while at the same time, women have abortions to terminate normal babies. For those that have difficulty conceiving, most want their own, biological child: IVF has become the default option if natural conception fails.

Social workers sometimes argue that it is more important to place a child in a slightly imperfect situation than leave them waiting for six months or more for a heterosexual couple to put their names forward. I am not so sure. Maybe waiting a little longer might be worth it if the child has a more suitable family. Arguments for children with a history of child abuse or abusive fathers being better off in the care of lesbians are also made. The dedication of some professional gay couples to helping children with learning difficulties is hard to ignore when anecdotal success stories exist.

Once more I believe that Christians need to be setting the example both in commitment to marriage, prioritising care of their children over work and showing love in social action such as adopting, rather than leaving children to be placed in less than ideal situations.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Patricia Wiltshire, social worker in South Wales, for her advice.

Enigma 11

As the admitting SHO on the medical take, you are approached by the relatives of the patient you are about to see. ‘Doctor, we know that he has lung cancer, but we don’t want him to know.’ What issues are raised and how would you handle this situation?

Further Reading

  • adoptionreforms/adoptionact.shtml - details of the Adoption and Children’s Act 2002, due to be implemented in 2005. It allows unmarried couples and single prospective parents to adopt.
  • Stott J. New Issues Facing Christians Today. London: Marshall Pickering 1999:382-418
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