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Pete and Chasten Buttigieg chose life.
In case you missed the happy announcement, the Transportation Secretary and his husband have become the proud papas of adorable twins. Announcing the news over the holiday weekend, the couple said that they are “delighted to welcome Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg to our family,” with Joseph being named for the Secretary’s late father.
It’s a heartwarming statement, and, as a nationwide debate rages over abortion and women’s reproductive choices, you would think the right would be touting the Buttigieges as an example of adoption being the better option.
You thought wrong. Conservatives across the internet went apoplectic, reminding Pete, Chasten, and the rest of us that when they say “adoption is an option,” they don’t mean adoption by gay people. Rather, they only mean those who fit their own narrow definition of what a family is or should be. By denigrating the Buttigieges, however, the right is showing its true face — and it’s ugly enough to scare a baby. Clearly, anti-choice politics are not about saving babies, but about controlling women’s reproductive labor and reinforcing heteronormative concepts about who and want makes a family.
It’s annoying to have to rehash this, because the data is conclusive and has been for decades, but here we are. Study after study shows that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as those raised by straight couples. As one example, a study from 2010 reported by the American Psychological Association found that “children adopted into lesbian and gay families are as well-adjusted as children adopted by heterosexual parents, and follow similar patterns of gender development”. In 2014, researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia found that children raised by same-sex couples are even “happier and healthier” than those raised by straight couples. Research by European economists in 2019 found that children raised by same-sex couples do better in school as well.
Clearly, collectively speaking, gay parents are doing something right. Yet the scorn with which many so-called “pro-life” activists reacted to the announcement that the biological mother of these children and the two men who will become their fathers “chose life” is jarring. “Where are the mothers? My heart goes out to these infants,” anti-choice activist and right-wing commentator Lila Rose tweeted at the Secretary in response to his announcement. Liberty Hangout, which touts itself as “the official home of Kaitlin Bennett,” another right-wing commentator, tweeted that “Pete Buttigieg did not have kids. He stole them from a mother that did.”
Meanwhile, right-wing gadfly Michael Knowles published a homophobic screed at the Daily Wire bellowing that “a child has a right to a mother” and longing for the days of yore when “Pete Buttigieg’s sexual identity would have thwarted his natural longing to have a child.” Curiously, Knowles baselessly speculates that the Buttigieges may have used an egg donor and surrogate rather than adopting. Certainly, there are legitimate critiques of commercial surrogacy exploiting women’s bodies, but they do not apply here. Every report states the Buttigieges adopted. Pete and Chasten themselves have been open about their struggles adopting. “It’s a really weird cycle of anger and frustration and hope,” Chasten told the Washington Post in July.
Dressing this up as concern for women and children, as Knowles and Rose both try to do, is as insulting as it is deceitful. That they have to resort to innuendo and conjecture — all of it baseless — gives away their game. Knowles, Rose, and the rest of the right-wing critics are motivated not out of concern for the children being adopted into a loving and stable home, but out of animosity towards gay people and a world in which alternative family structures to the heteropatriarchal nuclear family are gaining acceptance.
This is particularly jarring given the current national debate over abortion in light of the new Texas law putting a bounty on pregnant women. Many anti-choice activists, including Rose, advocate for adoption over abortion and speak as though they do so out of a concern for mothers and pregnant people. However, they don’t want to pay for an expanded welfare state which might help struggling mothers in poverty. They don’t want to pay for a better foster system. And, as their reaction to the Buttigieg baby announcement shows, they don’t want queers adopting, either.
After all, Pete and Chasten seem to have done exactly what anti-choice advocates claim they want to see: they adopted. They chose life, as did the children’s mother. Such a visible public figure as a cabinet secretary choosing to adopt would be an example the pro-life movement touts and encourages others to follow if it were actually about saving babies. But it isn’t.
I am thrilled for Pete and Chasten, just as I am thrilled for every new parent. It’s a shame not everyone can be so gracious and polite, and even more shameful that some would let their own homophobia and misogyny rain all over such a happy occasion — especially when it has the outcome they purport to desire.
In rushing to condemn the Buttigieges, conservatives have done the rest of us a favor by betraying their true motives. Anti-choice activism is not about saving babies or ending abortion. Rather, it is about policing how other people live — be they pregnant teenagers or cabinet secretaries.