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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