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Thoughts on Men and Babies

We risk turning both fatherhood and motherhood into parodies of nature.

Pete and Chasten Buttigieg hold two babies in a hospital bed. (via Twitter)

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend turned wunderkind secretary of the U.S. DOT, has two babies now. How and where he got them is unclear.

He certainly didn’t make them, as his key selling point as a politician precludes him from any procreative act. Nor did the other Mr. Buttigieg, Chasten, whom Secretary Mayor Pete met on Hinge and has taken to calling his husband since a 2018 ceremony in South Bend’s Episcopal Cathedral of St. James. The fact that neither Buttigieg gave birth to these kids, though, didn’t stop them from taking a picture side-by-side in a hospital bed as if they had, a farcical and sterile imitation of the classic photo of a mother with her newborn child.

Maybe the Buttigieges adopted, stepping in to help a troubled mother who might otherwise have offered the poor twins up to Moloch. If that’s the case, then the situation is a bit more complicated. Gay parents are, in fact, preferable to annihilation, as the “pro-lifers are just pro-birth” chorus readily reminds us. But the immediacy and emotional charge of such situations obscure the bigger picture: There are, by some estimates, about 2 million traditional couples in the U.S. currently waiting to adopt—that is, about 36 couples for every child actually adopted. In a more just world (which is up to us to make) each and every one of the children needing families in this country would be placed with one of these couples, with whom the unique moral and developmental hazards of same-sex parenting would not be an issue. A real solution, that is, would be systemic: straightening out the legal labyrinth of American adoption, and easing the financial burden of childrearing through aggressive policy action, so that the false choice between death and disorder no longer appears before us.

Which is to say that there is, in fact, no pressing social need for gay parenthood, a historically bizarre development in what was considered only a generation ago as merely an eccentric sexual habit. Why, then, should we condone it—to say nothing of encourage it—when, for instance, children raised by same-sex couples are more than twice as likely to be depressed in adulthood, more than three times as likely to experience suicidal ideations in adolescence and four times as likely in adulthood, and twice as likely to be obese in both? When all available information and basic intuition suggest that it is not good for children to be raised in other than natural circumstances? Any attempt at justification betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what parenthood actually is.

Discounting the ill-informed who believe that gay adoption is somehow necessary for America’s forgotten children to escape more damaging situations, or to quell the epidemic of infanticide ongoing in this country since 1973, it all boils down to wish fulfillment: parenthood is just another box on the checklist of American success and gratification. A kid is like a dog, or a dream job, or a good book, or a week’s vacation in Iceland—just on a grander scale. These things can all be traded out for each other according to personal preference and in pursuit of maximal enjoyment for each individual over the course of a lifetime. If two dudes think seeing a baby through to adulthood is going to give them the warm fuzzies, who are you to tell them that it would be both biologically impossible and psychologically detrimental for them to do so? These people have a right to children, because children will make them happy. In the face of such a high imperative as personal fulfillment, neither the welfare of the children nor the contradiction of nature could possibly be expected to win out.

Nor does such thinking stop at gay adoption. En vogue in the gay community of late is surrogacy, wherein a woman is paid a handsome fee to carry another person’s biological child for nine months, give birth, and then promptly part with the baby after labor. (Such arrangements can also be made by infertile straight couples, who are no less susceptible to that problematic feeling of entitlement to children.) As Mr. and Mr. Buttigieg previously had mentioned their efforts to adopt, it is less likely that they took this latter route, but the public controversy over their LARPing as birthing persons has once again brought the issue to the fore.

Since it has returned for a moment to the center of the conversation, it is worth restating what should be obvious to all conservatives: Surrogacy is an unmitigated and unconscionable evil. First and foremost is a life issue: For every artificial implantation, multiple embryos are created in the hopes that one will have success; the rest are consigned to their fate. Could anyone who believes (as logic demands) that life begins at conception possibly concede that these disposed lives are justified collateral for the self-fulfillment of our sterile elites, however deeply they may feel the pangs of childlessness?

But the moral considerations go beyond even this fundamental one. Only in a profoundly twisted post-civilization can well-off Epicureans rent the wombs of poor but fertile women as the breeding-ground for human beings lab-made as the answer to their desires. It is perhaps the most abhorrent example of the exploitation of women in a society where the exploitation of women abounds. It is intensely unnatural in virtually every way imaginable, and the presence of a financial element only serves as a further indictment of the systems we have built. This is the ultimate liberation of the few at the expense of those who must uphold their fantasies by sweat and blood. The death of the majority of the unique human beings created in the process, while by far the gravest offense involved, is merely a consequence of the profound selfishness at root of the whole affair.

This type of thought and action—women and children at the disposal of self-serving men, even unto death, while the men cast themselves as heroes and progressives for pursuing their own pleasure—is of a piece with male abortion activism. There is something particularly grotesque about these self-professed male feminists, who (entirely altruistically, of course) insist that women must have abortion as a ready option in the case of accidental pregnancy, lest they be unfree. How could a woman be free, after all, if she were not free to engage in thoughtless sex with men, with all possible avenues available to her to ensure that the natural consequence of that action will not come to fruition? How convenient that women’s liberation coincides perfectly with libertine men’s uncontrolled desires.

We should not pretend that any of this, perpetrated by the sons of the sexual revolution, is well intended.

In all these cases—gay parenthood, surrogacy, male abortion militancy—we see the subordination of the natural procreative function to the single-minded pursuit of pleasure, by men whose vision of the good is invariably reducible to pleasure. These are not victimless sins: women are physically and psychically brutalized, infants killed, children damaged, and countless others hurt by the reckless destruction of the natural order of life at its very roots. If there is any misogyny in 2021 worth raising hell about, any toxic masculinity or patriarchal imbalance of power, surely it is this.

Noah Smith, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist of some note, thinks he has the solution: Simply abolish the distinctions between men and women so that all imbalance and injustice vanishes in chaos.

Contra Jen Psaki, Smith does not seem to believe that pregnancy and childbirth are restricted to the fairer sex. The problem is just that we haven’t escaped the bonds of nature enough. The true liberal’s utopia is a world in which men can take birthing-bed pictures with newborn babies without having to pretend they just went through labor.

There is, of course, another vision. Rather than pushing through this hell of our own making in hopes that we’ll come out the other end, we could just turn around. We could embrace once again the limits and order imposed on us by nature, which neither faith nor much thought is needed to recognize. We could remember that parenthood is an obligation—to the child and to the community—and not just the logical next step when the dog stops filling the void. We could acknowledge the obvious facts that fatherhood cannot exist without motherhood, nor motherhood without fatherhood, and that both exist for a higher purpose than our own happiness.

We could admit that every rejection of that truth—whether by two men sitting in place of a father and a mother, by the paid transformation of the process of motherhood into a parody of itself, by hedonists’ insistence on guilt-free sex imposed by forceps if necessary, or by lunatic dreams of wiping out the lines of nature altogether—brings us further from reality and closer to our ruin.

about the author

Declan Leary is associate editor of The American Conservative. He was previously an editorial intern at National Review and a frequent contributor to such publications as National Review Online and Crisis Magazine.

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