By Ed West
July 6, 2011 / telegraph.co.uk
No area of life better illustrates the law of unintended consequences than sex, which is why government attempts to direct our sexual behaviour are generally unsuccessful.
The Government’s attempts to reduce teenage pregnancy in Wales by introducing free morning-after pills are a classic example of this, although more generally government attempts to reduce the teen pregnancy rate are unsuccessful. For various reasons, mostly moral cowardice, it is left to the churches to argue against this practise, perhaps because those few who do speak out attract such hostility.
Strange to believe now, but when the Abortion Act was going through Parliament in 1968 its advocates argued that this would mean the end of the misery of unwanted children. Instead today we have slightly more children in care than we did in the early 1970s. Why? Because people’s sexual habits change, depending on the consequences of that behaviour. In the US, at least, legal abortion made almost no difference to the birth rate, which dropped by less than 5 per cent, but conceptions went up by 30 per cent.
The Abortion Act also had an impact on adoption, with the number of children adopted from state care falling from 20,000 a year in the 1970s to 3,000 a year today.
But according to Martin Narey, the Coalition’s new adoption “tsar”, and a former chief executive of Barnado’s, there was also an ideological reason, with many social workers opposed to adoption: “They think it is social engineering, allowing middle-class people to bring up working-class children. Where there are successes, professionals are apologetic about it, like it is some sort of tragedy.”
This sort of cultural relativism, which took at its basis that typical adopting families – married, often religious, often middle-class – were no better than the often young, single and poorly educated birth mothers, also lead to the de facto abolition of inter-racial adoption, a process that strikes me as actually evil.
And it’s amazing how many bad things come down to moral cowardice in the end. Narey writes that social workers often encouraged women to look after the children, because it made them feel better themselves: “For six months we are all over her telling her how well she is doing – and then she is on her own. What we are doing is cowardly.”
Indeed. I wouldn’t want to tell a struggling 16-year-old from a chaotic family that it’s best she gave her child away, but then, as Winston Churchill put it: “Without courage all virtues lose their meaning.”
If something feels good, but there’s a nagging uncertain feeling at the back of your head, it’s best to pay attention to that feeling.
Perhaps the same feeling was lying in the back of the heads of the various Labour and Conservative MPs – including our prime minister – to vote for the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, by doing so condemning even more children to a heartbreaking life in care. Still, at least they could feel good about being in favour of equality.