Heritage Foundation: Gay marriage means less marriage and more abortions

Is it just me, or do conservatives set to argue against marriage equality in the Supreme Court know they have their cards stacked against them? After the comprehensive demolition of their go-to arguments that took place in federal circuit courts around the country, they’ve been hard-pressed to come up with new arguments showing any evidence that allowing gay couples to marry can have any negative consequences for anyone else.

Enter the Heritage Foundation, which earlier today promoted an amicus brief filed by over 100 “scholars of marriage” — whatever that means — which argues that marriage equality will lead to more abortions:

As the argument goes, allowing for same-sex marriage dilutes the norm of marriage being between one man and one woman, which leads fewer men and women to bother getting married. And since unmarried women have more abortions than married women…voila! All of those straight women who would otherwise get married and have babies are instead going to get knocked up and have abortions JUST BECAUSE the gays are getting married.

They even have a chart to prove it!

Arbitrary line on a downward-sloping chart, via The Daily Signal

Arbitrary line on a downward-sloping chart, via The Daily Signal

The above chart shows Spain’s marriage rate per 1000 citizens relative to the year the country adopted “genderless,” i.e. same-sex marriage (2005), which Heritage seems to think proves that gay marriage causes a decline in straight marriage. After all, marriage rates do go down after Spain started letting LGBT folks get married. Case closed, right?

First off, their numbers are wrong. The Census Bureau reports Spain’s marriage rate in going from 7.9 to 6.2 per 1000 between 2000 and 2008, far higher than the 5.2 to 4.5 decline observed in Heritage’s chart. Second, they do a nice job of starting the y axis at 3 instead of 0 to make the decline appear steeper than it actually is. But setting all that aside, the chart still doesn’t say what Heritage claims it does. Anyone with eyes and a brain can read that chart and see that marriage rates were declining in Spain years before the “Year of Change” line they drew in the middle. If there’s a causal story to be inferred from that chart (there isn’t), it would be that declining marriage rates caused same-sex marriage, not the other way around.

You’d think that’d be the worst of it, but it isn’t. Once you get past the inferences drawn from a chart that wouldn’t pass muster in 8th grade geometry, things start to get even weirder in Heritage’s argument.

Starting with the assumption that marriage rates will fall following America adopting gay marriage, they then start doing some highly speculative math about what that will mean for the number of married women, which they then multiply by the current abortion rates for married and unmarried women to predict that 900,000 (!) more abortions will be carried out over the next 30 years if we decide that gay couples have the same marriage rights as straight couples.

That math only works two ways. First, you can assume that the population of women whose heterosexual marriage choices hinge on same-sex marriage rights will behave exactly the same way as the population of women who will stay unmarried no matter what the courts say on the subject. This assumption comes with the wildly problematic corollary that one of the main reasons why a woman wouldn’t get an abortion is having a husband — as opposed to a boyfriend or partner — around to say no.

Second, you can assume that lesbians are getting a ton of abortions. Or, as Wonkette’s Kaili Joy Gray put it, “The Venn Diagram of women who would be able to exercise their constitutional right to marry each other, and women who f*ck men and end up with unwanted pregnancies, is actually a perfect circle.”

None of those assumptions make any sense.

Gay marriage via Shutterstock

Gay marriage via Shutterstock

For all of the good things associated with marriage equality that actually have evidence backing them up — most notably, more economic activity and less government spending on safety-net programs — Heritage Foundation’s attempt to quantify their bad feeling about letting same-sex couples marry is a laughable attempt in the other direction.

Of course, lost in all of this is the fact that even if these “scholars of marriage” are right, and more abortions really will occur as a result of same-sex marriage, that says nothing about the constitutionality of same sex marriage in and of itself. Last time I checked, abortion was still legal in this country despite the best efforts of the folks over at Heritage. Arguing that something should be illegal because it will result in more abortions adds nothing to the court’s deliberations. If it did, abstinence-only sex education would have been outlawed years ago.

Conservatives are grasping at straws for reasons as to why allowing homosexual marriage will destroy heterosexual marriage, along with human life as we know it. This latest round of theocon madlibs — allowing     bad thing     will lead to more     worse thing     — from the Heritage Foundation is only the latest Hail Mary in an attempt to prevent same sex couples from getting married, at this point purely out of spite passed off as concern.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Virginia Dreaming

    The slope of that decrease is not significantly different from linear between -5 and +5 years. Pretty solid evidence that legalizing same sex marriage has no effect on marriage rates.

  • And people have always been able to get married without the religious ceremony if they wanted to.

  • No doubt at all. Historically speaking, the secular contractual matter of marriage has always been more important than the religious aspect. The marriage ceremony was like asking God to co-sign the contract. At least to government, law, property rights, parental rights, etc. I would argue that government should work out a way to recognize other forms of relationship as just as valid as a marriage.

  • 2karmanot

    Abortion because Benghazi!

  • 2karmanot

    It does raise some very interesting conundrums. While the Federal law trumps State and in those states that have established same sex marriage as law, there exists the devil in the details—-the old laws contain complex, still discriminatory details that have yet to be fully challenged and re-written. I’m going through process that right now with Social Security. My husband and partner of 25 years died last July, 2014. I applied for spousal benefits and have been denied twice, because there was less than one year between the marriage and death. The problems lies in recognizing the 25 years of relationship as a valid indicator of ‘marriage.’ I have been told that a ‘domestic partnership’ or ‘common law’ or some other ‘proof’ might allow some standing. My point has been that there is no equivalency between those states and full marriage benefits and so those indicators of partnership should have no standing—-for many reasons, particularly because they often caused the unintended consequences of harm, particularly finiancial.

  • Butch1

    I suppose that’s one way of tying two of your hot base issues together to stir the pot. If they think their base is actually that stupid to lap it up, then go ahead and continue to teach them by route. You will continue to marginalize your party which is fine with me. These issues have been decided pretty much; women do not want the government invading their wombs, especially ignorant religious old white republican men. Most people are in favor of Equal rights for all Americans and their right to marry the ones they love. The Supreme Court will be able to settle that come June. If the Republicans want to continue to opine about this and whip up their base on useless old arguments, go ahead; hope you lose once again.

    This time I hope more independents win positions in the House and the Senate; democrats have not earned the right to take back the majority. Until they start moving back to the left and break their bond with Wall Street and start listening to their constituents once again, they don’t deserve our trust. Start supporting the Unions once again, Social Security, and our Safety Net and mean it. You need to start being vocal about it as well.

  • Yes, but families benefit from legal protections offered by marriage, at least in the US and especially in crisis situations (death of one of the parents, emergency medical situations).

    Also, we need to stop letting the religious right act as if marriage is a purely religious matter that the state butted into. That’s just not true.

  • bpollen

    I would have described it a little differently – flinging poo against the wall and seeing what sticks. Your description sounds SO much nicer!

  • One thing that is left out of their data is that the marriage rate is falling in pretty much all western democracies, at a faster rate than that data shows – including the US. More and more people are choosing cohabitation, without the additional layer of legal marriage. France is probably the most obvious example, with more than half of children born to unwed parents. Right-wing ideologues would say that is nothing more than a sign of drastic moral decay. Seems to me that it’s more like a sign of a civilization finally reaching maturity, and people realizing that one doesn’t need an obscure religious rite to justify and validate their family.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    It definitely puts me in mind of the grasping arguments that the right wingers had to support miscegenation laws. I know it’s a cliche, but haters got to hate.

  • The_Fixer

    This… from a think tank?

    If ever there was an example of an oxymoron, this is it right here. These people deserve steadfast, vehement ridicule for this crime against logic.

  • Indigo

    It looks to me as if there’s a set of trial balloons being released from the right wing crazies, testing to see what resonates with the public. Nothing so far but the lurid morbidity of their fantasy is actually disturbing. It takes sick to generate those kinds of false accusations and refusals of human rights that are the leading tactic of these self-identified “Christians.”

    And yet the “real” Christians remain mostly silent. It’s getting curiouser and curiouser.

  • 1jetpackangel

    This was the thing I found most confusing about the whole argument: the pregnancy rates, and therefore abortion rates, were going to escalate among same-sex couples WHY?

  • Bogus studies and falsifying data is the only non-religious strategy left to the anti-gay side. That, and the bigotry of hate-speech.

  • Max_1

    Simple… More lesbian women will be getting other lesbian women preggers?

    Because we sure know gay man aren’t getting preggers.

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