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LGBT and Others Threatened with Limited Access to Adoption

RMA Long Island IVF’s mission is to help all people become parents by providing the medical assistance and emotional support needed for them to meet that goal of parenthood.

In-vitro fertilization, commonly called IVF is a popular method of assisted reproductive technology used by both the heterosexual and the LGBT community to overcome physical obstacles to conception (for those unfamiliar with the IVF process, read more here).

This summer, the world’s first IVF baby turned 40. And RMA Long Island IVF, the first successful IVF practice on Long Island, turned 30. Two milestones to celebrate!

The advancements in assisted reproductive technology on Long Island over these past 30 years have been astounding and have given countless individuals and couples the ability to have a biological child where previously, adoption may have been their only hope for becoming parents. This is especially true in the LGBT community with its biological obstacles to a natural conception.

The advent of medical technologies and practices like IVF, donor sperm, donor egg, gestational carriers, (and surrogacy, where legal) provide additional parenthood options to prospective parents. They were never intended to replace adoption or foster parenting as a family-building choice, but rather to complement or supplement the noble and rewarding practice of raising a child who desperately needs and deserves a stable and loving home.

But something else happened this summer.

Something that could not be characterized as an advancement and was certainly not celebratory. It was something that threatened to block the LGBT community from accessing one of their pathways to parenthood.

Access to adoption was threatened due to a small but powerful amendment to a federal appropriations bill before the House named after its author and commonly referred to as the “Aderholt Amendment.” Over this summer 300+ advocacy organizations, including many LGBT-friendly groups, that mobilized against this bill often referenced it by the hashtag “#LicenseToDiscriminate.”

This outrageous proposed amendment which threatens the access of LGBT community members (and other groups) to child welfare services like adoption and foster parenting deserves your attention.

Amendment to Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bill, 2019 offered by Mr. Aderholt of Alabama

“Sec. ____. (A) The Federal government, and any state or local government that receives federal funding for any program that provides child welfare services… … shall not discriminate or take an adverse action against a child welfare services provider on the basis that the provider has declined or will decline to provide, facilitate, or refer for a child welfare services that conflicts with, or under circumstances that conflict with, the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.

(b) The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall withhold from a state or local government 15% of the federal funds the state or local government receives for a program that provides child welfare services… if the state or local government violates subsection (a) when administering or disbursing funds under such program...”

To sum up, the Aderholt amendment would, under the threat of losing 15% of its federal funding for child welfare services, prohibit state or local governments from discriminating against child welfare providers who “decline to provide, facilitate, or refer” services based on the provider’s “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” In other words, the amendment would give these child welfare agencies a license to discriminate by not holding them responsible, for denying services to groups of people whose lifestyles and beliefs clash with the provider’s religious and moral convictions.

While the LGBT community would arguably be the largest group negatively impacted by this amendment allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, other groups would be hurt as well. Otherwise qualified prospective parents who are single, divorced or interfaith could be turned away for religious reasons. In effect, people could also be denied for possessing pretty much any characteristic that an agency worker finds objectionable, including the prospective parent’s disabilities and political beliefs.

The good news is that the efforts of several hundred child welfare, civil rights, LGBT, faith-based, and other compassionate organizations to remove the discriminatory language was not in vain.

Last week, the Aderholt Amendment language was removed from the appropriation bills passed by both the House and the Senate. But what a wake-up call.

It’s been suggested that the Aderholt Amendment was defeated because it “had broken the cardinal rule of child welfare, that the needs of children should come first”. While it is admirable that elected officials ultimately decided to prioritize the children's need to live in “safe, happy, and healthy permanent homes” by rethinking and removing the license to discriminate against otherwise qualified prospective parents, it’s disturbing to many that the discriminatory amendment was even proposed and initially approved in the earlier House bill in July.

How close did the LGBT community and the rest of the Americans from other classes traditionally protected against discriminatory practices just come to losing open access to adoption and foster parenthood?

If it was not for the Herculean advocacy efforts to invoke the images of the countless, nameless and needy children waiting for parents who would have been hurt coupled with a timely moment of clarity and conscience in Congress, we may never know.

As a partner to The LGBT Network year-round, RMA Long Island IVF is committed to providing compassionate and inclusive care and has enjoyed building families in the LGBT community for decades.

We encourage all members of the LGBT community to come to our free seminar “Building Families in the LGBT Community” being held in conjunction with The LGBT Network on the evening of October 25th at The LGBT Network’s Bay Shore Center, 34 Park Avenue, Bay Shore, New York. Our doctors, nurses, staff and reproductive law attorney, Amy Demma, will address the many family-building options available to the LGBT community and will be happy to answer any of your questions. All are welcome. Preregister here: 

As promised, a generalization of the IVF process is summarized below for those who need it.