Homosexual Adoption Controversy Divides US Pediatricians

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - When the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorsed adoptions by homosexual couples earlier this year, it did so based on insufficient and inaccurate data, a group of dissenting AAP members has charged.

The assertion that children who grow up with same-sex parents fare as well emotionally and socially as children whose parents are heterosexual - as claimed in the February 2002 AAP report on adoption by same-sex couples - is misleading and should not be cited as fact, they said.

"This statement generated for the AAP more controversy than almost any other statement in anyone's memory, and most of our memories go back a long way," said Joseph Zanga, a professor of pediatrics and a former AAP president.

According to a summary of the report: "There is no systematic difference between gay and non-gay parents in emotional health, parenting skills and attitudes towards parenting. No data have pointed to any risk to children as a result of growing up in a family with one or more gay parents."

Since the report itself acknowledges a scarcity of data on the issue, many AAP members contended the organization should have published it as an opinion, not fact, or discarded it altogether, Zanga said.

The report proved to be the last straw for some members, who for years have been disenchanted with the AAP's positions on other contentious issues involving children, including condom distribution and parental consent for abortion, Zanga said.

Based on what they see as the report's lack of scientific integrity, a number of members have gotten together to form the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) in an effort to distinguish their positions from those of the AAP.

The ACP leaders don't see the new organization as an alternate to the AAP, but as a complimentary group, much like the Society for Adolescent Medicine or the Ambulatory Pediatric Association, said Zanga, a charter member.

"What the ACP is dedicated to, like the AAP, is to the optimum physical, mental and social health and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults," he said.

The college, however, will emphasize the health and well being of the child within the context of a married mother-father household.

"We see that as the optimum, but our membership will work with and help other families who are not so fortunate," Zanga said.

The 'Non-Traditional' Family

Joseph F. Hagan, M.D., chairman of the AAP committee on Psycho-Social Aspects of Child and Family Health - which prepared the report - said although the data is limited, the researchers produced a very good review of the available literature.

The authors relied only on research from reputable professional journals from the University of Vermont College of Medicine and the University of Vermont Library, Hagan said.

"Our committee looked very hard to see if there was any evidence of harm by having children have two parents who were of the same gender, and if that data is out there, I will tell you we sure couldn't find it," Hagan said.

Indeed, researchers were unlikely to find scientific studies that reliably compare heterosexual parented families with homosexual parented families, Hagan noted.

"There are a lot of types of non-traditional families and I think there are tremendous differences in the family, some of which can be cast as weaknesses, some of which certainly can be cast as strengths.

"But families in our nation and in the world don't all look alike. I see these families as simply another type of non-traditional family," he said.

Having an adoptive parent is better than being in the state adoptive system. Similarly, having two parents is better than one, Hagan said.

However, Hagan said, neither the AAP report nor its summary were meant to be taken as "new literature."

"They were not scientific statements, and if people are citing them in opposition to us, then there's my correction. If people are citing us in support, then I would give them the caveat that this is the opinion of the majority of the members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and this is the literature review that was used to base that opinion," he said.

Indeed, the AAP leadership has voted to support the statement. At a recent meeting of the AAP's chapter forum, which comprises the presidents and vice presidents of the AAP's state chapters, members voted virtually unanimously to support the academy's stand on homosexual parenting, Hagan and Zanga reported.

However, "No one knows and no one will ever know where the real numbers fall," Zanga said. "My suspicion is that there is a sizeable group of the membership that supports the AAP's statement; there's a sizeable group that opposes the AAP's statement and there's that vast middle ground who really don't even care."

Peter Sprigg, director of cultural studies with the Family Research Council, said the AAP statement was the result of political pressure from within the organization.

A secondary factor in support of the statement is a possible level of economic self-interest in that physicians may see the expansion of adoption and domestic partner benefits as a way of expanding health insurance coverage in the population as a whole, Sprigg said.

"But I would hope they would look at the serious health concerns associated with homosexuality and make a decision based on actual health considerations, not just on financial considerations," Sprigg said.

On homosexual parenting, studies have shown that children of female same-sex parents are less likely to conform to traditional gender roles, are more likely to engage in homosexual relations themselves and are more sexually adventurous, Sprigg said.

A recent Australian study comparing children raised by married couples, children raised by cohabiting heterosexual couples and children raised by homosexual couples found that in nine of 13 categories - mostly involving social adjustment and academic achievement - children raised by married couples did best and children raised by same sex couples did worst, Sprigg said.

"And that's all besides the more general evidence showing the problems inherent in homosexual behavior in general, including higher levels of promiscuity, physical disease, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence," he said.

Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association, said the AAP statement would be used in legal custody battles to say that homosexual parenting is a good thing for children.

"We don't think the data supports that and ultimately the children are the ones that are going to be harmed," Stevens said. "Pediatricians will take care of kids the same, but they are to advocate for children's welfare and unfortunately, I don't think this does."

E-mail a news tip to Lawrence Morahan.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.