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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: What Rights Do Children Have? Part IV of IV

Sunday, July 31, 2005

What Rights Do Children Have? Part IV of IV

Why I Wrote This Series

As I expected, a fair number of people responded to the first three parts of this four-part series: What Rights Do Children Have? So far I have argued that children are individuals, have a right to health & safety, and a right to education . This is by no means an exhaustive ‘bill of rights’ for children but more of a starting point to get the discussion of children’s rights rolling. Icarus had an excellent comment to the first part of the series that I think is worth repeating here:



I think a proper term for a parent would be a steward or gaurdian. They don't own the child, as the idea of owning another person, even if they do have limitations on their reasoning capacity, is perposterous…Once the stewards actions are no longer beneficial to the upbringing of the child but instead are detrimental then they have violated their responisbility…

Interesting topic, the realm of children and what rights they have is underdeveloped.

I think Icarus has it pretty well nailed down and I definitely agree that this topic is underdeveloped. This four-part series is my attempt to develop this topic a little further. I don’t by any means claim that I have the answers (though I think I have a few good suggestions) but merely raise the question: what rights do children have?

Some of you might be curious as to why I have decided to spend so much time writing on this subject in the first place. The answer has a lot to do with many of the injustices I have seen reported in the news: parents who refuse to give their children critical medical care, child neglect, and parents purposely denying their children access to an education.

The worst case of children being denied any rights whatsoever In the United States I have found to be the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah. My wife wrote a research report about these communities which she posted here on March 31st. Some of the atrocities she reported sound like something one might expect in the Arab world. Here is some of what she found:



In an article published by the Associated Press in 2001, a 15-year-old girl had tried to flee her community in April of 2001. She had informed the authorities that her parents were going to force her into a polygamous marriage to a man already married several times over...The young girl begged the sheriff’s department to help her; instead they returned her to the compound. In a statement to the media, the sheriff explained that her parents had the right to decide how their daughter will live since she is a minor.

[…]

Many of the women are considered single mothers since a majority of the marriages are “celestial”. With this, the women can beat the system and apply for WIC, Medicaid, and food stamps in order to survive. Very few families can afford health insurance. There is no screening for genetic defects. The children in these communities are in very poor health. Herpes is a common disease among these young kids.

Perhaps the taxpayers’ rights are being violated too, you think?


[…]

Often times a young girl will be forced to marry her own relatives. In doing so, they have dozens of inbred children. Many [babies] die shortly after birth, or they miscarry.

[…]

These women are uneducated and live a life of isolation with very little knowledge of the outside world. Because of this, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to having the right skills to find a job.
Seems to me that the rights of these children have been violated, yet authorities are reluctant to do anything about it or have no legal grounds to remove the children from the polygamist communities. The children who do escape have a difficult time adjusting to society.

Polygamists are not the only ones who violate children’s rights. I recently watched a report on 20/20 where a girl in an Amish community was repeatedly raped by her own brother. The boy’s punishment? Being banned from church for a few Sundays and picking up a few extra chores; a punishment equivalent to being caught drinking alcohol. When the girl tried to bring her case before the local authorities outside the community, the judge decided to allow the Amish community to handle the matter internally. This is nothing more than another example of a religious group getting special treatment.

Where Do We Draw the Line? (Responding to Reader Comments)
Note: Spelling and punctuation is published as originally written. Some comments have been truncated […].

Mindwyrm wrote the following in response to my first post of the series:



One major problem with your assertion that a child is an individual is the fact that the child is not capable of living independently yet. I would say that if you require the intervention of another, merely to continue your existence, then you have lost a major portion of your individuality. When you factor in the idea that a child has yet to learn many of the behaviors or develop the personality that will allow them to be an individual then it gets even harder to lable children as true individuals. I'm not saying that parents can do anything they want to their children, but the parents are the ones with the responsibility to the child, not society at large.

I think the fact that a child cannot live independently is precisley the problem we are dealing with. I absolutley agree that a child does not have the same individual rights as an adult should. I’m not suggesting that society should be responsible for children (as Hillary Clinton would have us believe, “it takes a village”). What I am suggesting is that if parents are irresponsible and somehow violate a child’s rights, society should do something to protect the child from his or her parents or punish the parents in some reasonable way. Maybe this is a distinction without a difference but I don’t think so.

In part II, several people objected to my suggestion that children have a right to health & safety.

Mindwyrm said...


Health and safety are not rights for any individual, be it a child or an adult. Does the parent have an obligation upon them to protect the child? To a certain extent, yes. But it would be inane to say a child's right to safety had been violated cuz they skinned their knee learning to ride a bike. And getting the state involved is a bad idea when it comes to children in almost any situation…

As for health, no one has the right to health. You don't. I don't. The children don't either. Lets face it, is sounds really silly to say your rights have been trampled on by a cold virus, now doesn't it? Do the parents have an obligation to care for their child? Yes they do, but how they do so is up to them. The parents are responsible for that child until it's age of consent so how they execute their responsibility is their choice. The parent who abuses their child is is not living up to that responsiblity. A parent who refuses to take a child to the doctor due to religious reasons is doing so, but in a way you or I wouldn't agree with. The way they see it, modern medicine endagers the child's soul and that has a far higher importance than the body. do I agree with that? Absolutely not, but it is the parents call to make, not yours or mine and most definitely not the states.


Rymes with Right had this to say:



You realize, of course, that your position here effectively denies the right of a parent to raise a child within his/her relitious faith, and furthermore subjects the practice of religion by both parent and child to the regulation of the state. Based upon your arguments, i also suspect you would insist on the state being permitted to override the religious scruples of the minor child, even if said child had reached the age of reason. What's more, your argument makes the state the arbiter of "appropriate" medical care -- sort of like the case we had here in Texas, where stating a desire for a second opinion was grounds for child-snatching by CPS.

You have an incredible trust in the goodness and benevolence of government, and a clear desire to allow it to intervene in the lives of anyone with whom you disagree. Not only do i think someone should take away your Libertarian card, I think there needs to be an investigation (perhaps by the government which you want regulating s much of live?) as to how said Libertarian card was issued in the first place.


Adults might not have a right to healthcare but children absolutley do. Adults should be responsible for their own health. On the other hand, it would be unreasonable for anyone to ask a seven year-old to be responsible for his or her own healthcare. How would a seven year-old pay a doctor bill? Perhaps a paper route or sell lemonade in the front yard? If the child’s parents are not responsible, someone else nessisarily has to step in and help. I’m not talking about children skinning their kness or catching a cold; I am talking about that ‘certain extent’ that parents must make health care accessable to their children.

This notion that parents can withhold critical care to their children due to religious beliefs is absurd. What if a nonreligious person decided to withhold critical treatment such as an organ transplant or blood transfusion? Is that person entitled to excersise that same right? What if the parents are just cold hearted bastards who simply do not want to save the child’s life for whatever reason? The law cannot play favorites. Any parent who would deny the child such a life-saving surgery should be judged by a jury of his or her peers.

This has nothing to do with my trust or distrust in government but has everything to do with the fact that all too often, the child in question has no voice in the matter. Let’s suppose for a moment a child in this situation has reached the ‘age of reason’ (between 14 and 17) and wants the surgery or blood transfusion. Whose rights should prevail, the child’s or the parent’s? In any situation like this, I would have to say the child’s.

As to my Libertarian credentials? Do your own ‘investigation’ and read some of my past articles. Maybe I would be more accuratley described as an independent with mostly Libertarian leanings (though I am registered Libertarian on my voter ID card). The Libertarian Party nor any other party tells me what to believe, I have my own mind and I call it like I see it.

A.L.L. agreed with my position writing:


This isn't about skinned knees and colds. When a parent puts their religious beliefs ABOVE the safety and well being of their child, they are endangering their childs health. If the parent doesn't want to seek treatment for themselves, so be it, but don't make a child suffer. If that child were to die due to their negligence, why should they get to hide behind their religion, while some parent who just negligent gets sent to jail? 'Because its against my religion' is a an excuse, and should not be tolerated. Children do not have the voice to say, 'Hey, I would like to be treated with western medicine so I can have a chance to live instead of being wrapped in a blanket, pretend to be born again, and possibly suffocate'! Why should parents get to make that kind of decision for the child? Let me ask you this... If a child whose parents don't believe in medical science to cure, end up with a child who has cancer, you
don't think the state should step in to give that child a fighting chance? Because you know without proper treatment, that child would die. And in turn if that were to happen, those parents should be prosecuted and put in jail.

In part III, I received the most response. Most disagreed with my reasoning behind a child having a right to education. I’ll begin with part of Eric’s response:



Stephen, I would counter argue that the only rights that children have are the same as every other human, the inherent rights of life, liberty and property. And those are bounded by their ability to responsibly function within society.

Neither adults nor children have a "right" to healthcare, or education, for example. Those are privileges. One of the biggest problems in our society today is that we have decided that privileges should become legal entitlements and then extended that to make them mandated entitlements.


Let me respond here by using the life, liberty, and property framework. As to a child’s right to life, isn’t that what I am arguing when a child’s life hangs in the balance when a parent chooses to deny critical care to a child? I could also argue that a child’s right to health and safety falls directly under the child’s right to life. If I were to find an infant abandoned along the side of the road, does that child not have a right the health and safety? The state would likely take custody and would provide care using tax dollars. We cannot very well expect the infant child to care for him or herself can we? Now, we could hope that a reputable private organization would step in and care for the child until a good home was found for the child. Besides, don’t we the taxpayers pay for the wellbeing of prisoners? Shouldn’t a child be provided that same ‘privilege?’

Liberty. Liberty (Rights) is the very question I am posing. As we can see, the liberties of a child are very different from an adult. Whatever rights a child has can be at odds with the parent’s.

Property. I’m going to need some help with this one. I don’t understand how a child can actually possess, maintain, or transfer property. Maybe in some limited cases, but it seems like a parent would have some sort of ‘eminent domain’ over the children.

Rhymes With Right apparently believes that I ‘rhyme with wrong’ writing:


And so the obvious answer, to you, is the implementation of a state bureaucracy which will determine what each child shall know. The common mass of humanity shall be required to pay for said system of schools, but shall be denied a substantive voice in them lest they impose an agenda (other than yours) on the system of education. And at the top shall be a philosopher-king --let's call him the Education Czar -- who agrees with you in every respect, and who will therefore be unswayed by such irrelevant individuals as parents or taxpayers.

There is a name for such a statist system -- and it isn't Libertarianism or Objectivism. I'll let you decide whether it is Fascism or Communism.



Rhyme, you don’t think this bureaucracy doesn’t already exist? What I am advocating is teaching a child how to think not what to think; how to reason, how to look for logical fallacies, how to determine fact from opinion. Call that an agenda if you like but if a child knows how to think critically, the bureaucracy could push whatever agenda they would like but the child would at least have a better chance of determining if they are being taught a bunch of b.s. or not. This exercise we are engaged in now would be a good example of critical thinking. My goal here is not necessarily to convince you to agree with me about what rights a child should have, but to make my readers think critically about this issue. I don’t know the answer, but I think I’m in the ballpark. What rights do YOU think children should have? Whatever rights the parents allow? Are children’s rights merely an accident of birth in your opinion?

Icarus writes:


As it is the parents responsibility to see to the gorwth and well-being of the child until thye reach the age of adulthood, you could make the case that part of that responsibility is the responsibility to educate the child. This wouldn't necessitate public schools, only that a parent had to educate the child, whether they paid for a private school or home schooled them. Failure to properly educate the child would constitute child-neglect.

But of course if this is the case we run into some very familiar problems. One, it is still the government that must create the standards of what a "proper" education is, basically giving the government the power to decide what must and must not be taught. Second, if someone defaults on educating their child, it would still ultimately be up to the state to provide that educatoin for that child, whether they do it themselves or just give the child a check. In fact, i could see many parents purposfully defaulting in order to have the government pay for their kid's education.

Life, Liberty, Property, you start adding fake rights to the list and it just messes up the whole system.


By no means am I saying a child has to be educated in a public school. If I could afford it, I would put my children in private school (maybe another reason to have my Libertarian card taken away…the way I see it I’m paying for it anyway). I agree that determining what would be a ‘proper’ education is certainly a problem. As for me and my family, I see school as only part of my children’s education. I have a duty to make sure their education is complete.

Fake rights? See my response to Eric’s post.

A.L.L. writes:


Maybe the easy thing to do would be to have the god fearing parents sign a permission slip to let their High School children be taught about...S E X.

Many of these parents aren't teaching their kids about it, so it is left in the hands of the schools. I was taught in High School about diseases, all the ways you can get them, parts of the body, how they function, how and male and female function together...yes, we talked about sex, and oh no, masturbation. We were even shown how to properly roll a condom onto a cucumber. Girls and boys were shown how big
a condom could be blown up so that a girl knows better when the guy says he can't fit into one. Girls were taught not to be ashamed to carry condoms themselves, not to rely on the guy to have it. We learned about all types of birth control, pregnancy, rape, molestation, abuse, the list goes on and on.I didn't end up a teen age mother because of what I learned. These things being taught are facts, and a part of human nature, I don't understand why so many parents are against it. My parents weren't the type to talk about these things with me, kids need another outlet to get the facts, because friends are not a good source.I'm glad that my school was smart enough to teach us all sides, I wasn't taught a bunch of fluff about abstinence only and that kissing can make you pregnant. I very much agree with your article, teach both, don't rely on just one method or the other. The same could be said when it comes to teaching students about creationism and evolution. But that's another whole can of worms...


What if A.L.L. did not receive this information? What you don’t know can hurt you. In the case of STDs what you don’t know can kill you. This all goes back to the right of health and safety.

Quincy writes:


I argue that children (and parents) have the right *to seek* an education, much as they have the right to seek health care and myriad other goods and services in the economy. To that end, I argue that students trapped in ineffective, and monopolistic, public schools are having that right violated.

And also


Also, a caution about using the term "critical thinking": that term has devolved into edu-babble that means anything any educrat wants it to mean. Were I you, I'd argue for a strong, and early, education in logic and rhetoric in schools.

Educators are violating the child’s right to a quality education. How many children finish high school believing our country is a democracy rather than a constitutional representative republic? Many people think this is a distinction without a difference but there are important differences between the two. This is but one example.

The critical thinking I speak of is based in Greek roots; the foundation of Western Civilization. The Greek philosophers are responsible for much of the ‘American’ concepts we speak of today. Representative government, trial by jury, politics and logical argumentation were all Greek inventions. (No I’m not Greek if anyone is curious).

Related Posts By Others:
Libertarianism: The Problem of Children by Brad Warbainy
Today's Links and Minifeatures 2005 07 29 by Searchlight Crusade
What Is The Proper Role of Government? by Eric Cowperthwaite

12 Comments:

Blogger Robert said...

First of all, the fact that the well being of innocent children is of concern to you is commendable. And without question, the task of determining, with precision, what rights children posses is extraordinarily difficult, to say the least.

One would hope that all parents are nurturing, loving and responsive to their children’s needs. But as your posts indicate, some parents fail to live up to certain standards that you and I might consider reasonable. That said, we disagree about what should be done, by the state, to protect children.

It seems to me that this issue has two main components: (1) moral (2) legal. To be sure, any legitimate law is moral, but not all moral codes ought to be codified.

With respect to the rights of minor children, it’s clear to me that they have a Right to Life. However, I would argue that Liberty and Property Rights are not practical for children. Liberty: the parent determines when, where and whether the child goes or stays, not vise-versa. Property: children own nothing outright, as the parent will have ultimate control over material possessions. In other words, children are effectively the subjects, or wards, of their parent or guardian.

Now, since children lack the ability to protect their life from an adult with ill intent (parent or not), I think that society (via the state if necessary) has the moral obligation to protect a child from one that would intentionally harm and/or endanger the child’s life. But such is the case for an adult, whose life has been endangered by a predator. Beyond that, the other things that you mention (education, health/safety, et al.) are arguably moral responsibilities, but quite frankly, these are not areas for state involvement.

The fact is that government is an ever increasing ‘necessary evil’, which feeds on the freedoms (Liberty and Property) of the complacent, as well as those that would seek to voluntarily empower the state in the name of security, utopia or whatever. Respectfully, it seems that your concern for the children of others’ has led to your suggestion that parents ought to be compelled by government, on pain of penalty, to provide certain 'entitlements' to their children, which are relatively recent, historically speaking.

Also, by elevating the status of a child’s individuality to that of a consenting adult (which is the consequence your propositions), the actual individual rights of parents are inevitably diminished. Furthermore, in this scenario, everyone (children and adults alike) would become subjects of the state, in the name of an arbitrary morality.

Finally, suppose that once the state starts defining rights (to a greater extent than it already has), ‘society’ decides that it’s immoral for parents to expect obedience from their children, because kids have rights too. And just to carry it to a more absurd end, what about when the state decrees that, since the children are OUR future, a parent’s sole purpose in life will be to generate revenue for the state and provide for their child’s every desire, so that the child will be physically and emotionally prepared to be a dutiful generator of revenue for the state, in addition to ‘creating’ more kids, so on and so forth. You get the point.

So, to the extent that perfection is unattainable, I’m for erring on the side of maximum individual liberty, even though some kids will have better parents than others, but in the final analysis, every adult has to forge their own path in life, regardless of the quality of the parenting they received.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Stephen Littau said...

Robert:

I can see that you have put a great deal of thought into this issue. Maybe I should have gone more with the moral angle opposed to the legal angle. Maybe the right to education is something more of a moral issue. The issue of individuality for children is also very tricky to determine because children are dependant on the care of adults. Maybe I should have been more clear stating that children should have certain limited rights (although actually all rigths are limited to some degree as there are no ‘absolute rights’). We seem to agree that children do not actually have the right to liberty (to a certain extent) or property. It seems to me that there are different rights for children than there are adults; certain trade-offs if you will.

Allowing children certain rights is something of a slippery slope. I have not seen or read much on the topic at all. I think your dire predictions of the state requiring citizens to procreate is a little too far down that slippery slope, however. I just don’t see that happening (but who knows, I’ve been wrong before).

This one excerpt from my wife’s reaserch report disturbs me greatly:

“In an article published by the Associated Press in 2001, a 15-year-old girl had tried to flee her community in April of 2001. She had informed the authorities that her parents were going to force her into a polygamous marriage to a man already married several times over...The young girl begged the sheriff’s department to help her; instead they returned her to the compound. In a statement to the media, the sheriff explained that her parents had the right to decide how their daughter will live since she is a minor.”

I cannot help but think that this desperate child has a right to get out of this particular situation. Maybe this is an emotional response, but I think in this case, the authorities should have both a moral and legal obligation to help this child rather than return her to the very people who repeatedly abused her.

I want to pose this question to you and anyone else who would like to respond: What is the proper role of government in THIS situation?

12:41 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Stephen said: "I think your dire predictions of the state requiring citizens to procreate is a little too far down that slippery slope, however."

Yeah, and Germans in 1932 didn't think they would get that far down the slippery slope either. I'm fairly sure that our ancestors would have slapped someone who told them that the USA would completely ignore the intent of the Constitution and institute a welfare state too. Come on Stephen, history is replete with examples of societies, including ours, traveling such paths to their logical extreme. What makes you think we'd somehow magically avoid this one?

Aside from that, there is no need for a "children's bill of rights". What there is, instead, is a need to rid ourselves of political correctness, first and foremost, and to actually deal with adult citizens who infringe on their children's right to life. Oh, by the by, I disagree with both you and Robert that children have no right to property. They may not have a legal ability to own property in our society, but they have property as much as any other person does. Or do you disagree that their toys, books, bike, etc. are theirs? You see, the right to life, liberty and property is much wider ranging and all encompassing than the very attenuated and watered down things that we think are our rights. This is part of the problem, of course. We have come to believe that the privileges that our government masters allow us are our "rights".

In any case, doesn't it seem obvious that child abuse is an infringement of a child's right to life? Or that denial of health care needed to maintain the child's health is an infringement of the same? At the same time, education is a privilege, not a right. Now, that doesn't mean that both individuals and society shouldn't desire to provide education for children. Education is one of those things that makes the society and the economy stronger and, from a consequentialist perspective, is something that we should try to provide for. Whether a private or public approach is better is a separate debate. But don't confuse a privilege that benefits society with a right. They are not the same.

What you are describing as rights in this series are actually privileges and entitlements, also known as constructed rights. The proper role of government, in this situation, or any other, is to prevent one individual (regardless of age or social status) from infringing on the life, liberty or property of another individual. That, and nothing more.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Mindwyrm said...

"Adults might not have a right to healthcare but children absolutely do."

How do they have a right to healthcare? You say adults don't have the right but children do.

So when do we lose the right? At your age of reason(14 to 17)? When we are no longer minors? If something is a right then it is not age-restricted. What you have done is confused personal responsibility with the idea of a right. Because the child cannot be responsible for themselves you say the have a right to healthcare. Because adults can be responsible for themselves they do not have a right to healthcare. By this logic, anyone incapable of taking care of themselves has rights the those with the ability to be self-sufficient do not.

If you are picking and choosing who gets these 'rights' then they are not rights at all. Rights know no age, creed, race, or sex. They are inherent rights that everyone can exercise. When you arbitrarily decide that some people have rights that others don't, how are you any different from those who said women couldn't vote?

If healthcare were a right then wouldn't the parents who can't afford insurance yet make too much to be on Medicaid be violating their childrens rights when they can't take them to the doctor?

Bottom line is that healthcare is not now, and never will be, a right. It is a service that we as consumers have access to when the need arises as long as we can meet the costs that those providing the service charge. If you cannot afford the charge the service provider isn't infringing on your rights.

7:33 AM  
Blogger Stephen Littau said...

Mindwyrm said: “How do they have a right to healthcare? You say adults don't have the right but children do.

So when do we lose the right? At your age of reason(14 to 17)? When we are no longer minors? If something is a right then it is not age-restricted. What you have done is confused personal responsibility with the idea of a right. Because the child cannot be responsible for themselves you say the have a right to healthcare. Because adults can be responsible for themselves they do not have a right to healthcare. By this logic, anyone incapable of taking care of themselves has rights the those with the ability to be self-sufficient do not.”

To a certain extent at least, rights and personal responsibility go hand-in-hand. I wrote a post a while back where I explain this in greater detail. If rights are not age restricted, why are children not allowed to vote? Is this a right children should have? How about the right to do drugs, drink alcohol, or smoke? Are these not age restricted rights? (technically these may be ‘constructed rights’ which I would put under ‘liberty.’)

I suppose you have a point when it comes to healthcare rights of children. A child who breaks his arm and walks into the ER does not have a right to the doctor’s services, depriving the doctor of the money (property). Maybe it boils down to common decency and the ethics of the doctor. I would hope that most doctors would help the boy regardless of the boy’s ability (responsibility?) to pay.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Steven, This took quite a bit of reading, but I made it through and am ready to respond. It so happens that today on Dr. Phil they did a piece about two young girls who escaped from a Polygamist group in Arizona. The sheriff there called a woman who came and picked up the girls and took them to a safe house and started them down the path of recovery. It was quiet a learning experience. Those children were raised in fear. I think those people should be prosecuted for what they do to their children. If it were you are I that did those things to our children, you can bet the farm that we would be prosecuted. It's no different.

Years ago, when Health care came along, only people who could afford it or those who wanted the Insurance would take it out. My parents didn't have Health Insurance but if we got sick they would take us to the doctor. Mom would pay the doctor at the time or work out a pay off schedule. It was simple as that. We didn't go to the doctor for simple colds or scrapes, we went for more serious things. I have seen people now days that take their kids to the emergency room for an earache because they knew the Insurance will pay for it. Yes we have a responsibility to give care to our children when they are ill, but we need to use prudence in when it should be done. We as parents do have the responsibility to take care of our children’s health. There are ways to do that without depending on the state for their help.

As far as property goes, they have the right to the clothes on their back and anything they purchase on their own. Bicycles can be confiscated as a means of punishment when needed. We as parent are not responsible for spoiling our children. They do not have the right to Guess jeans, and a car of their own. They must earn these things or purchase them with their own earned money. When our kids were driving age, we purchased a car for $2,000. that they had the privilege of using. They had to pay for their own insurance and gas. We put only liability insurance on the auto and they knew that if they wrecked the car, then they were out a car. They drove that car very carefully because they wanted to make sure they had one to use. Since we owned the car, there were times when they were not allowed to drive it. If one of them failed a class at school, then they were denied use of the car. They also had to quit their job so that they could bring their grades up. We were trying to teach our children about responsibility.

If we are going to bring a child into this world, we need to realize that we have certain responsibilities. We need to protect them from the elements, educate them so that they will be able to take care of themselves when they are grown, teach them morals, and for my husband and I, give them some religious teachings. We set boundaries, we give love and care, we teach, and we eventually cut the apron strings. Our children are like little birds and one day they will fly on their own. Our responsibility is to teach them how to fly.

I feel bad for parents who don’t own up to their responsibilities, it will hurt their children. For parents who physically harm their children or beat them or neglect them or violate them; then CPS needs to come in and protect the children. My heart hurts for these children.

If you don’t want to do these things for your children then don’t have them. Simple as that.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Quincy said...

Lucy -

That's a pretty elegant solution to the issue of property (and I wish I'd thought of it first).

Stephen and everyone else -

When it comes to health care, I consider that parents have the responsibility to procure it for their children and should be free to do so with minimum interference. Lucy brings up an interesting point that, when she was young, her parents could procure health-care at reasonable cost without insurance.

The thing to investigate is what has made health-care inaccessible at reasonable cost.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous kes said...

In response to Rymes and Right’s assertion “that your position here effectively denies the right of a parent to raise a child within his/her religious faith, and furthermore subjects the practice of religion by both parent and child to the regulation of the state.”

You rebut by stating: “This notion that parents can withhold critical care to their children due to religious beliefs is absurd. What if a nonreligious person decided to withhold critical treatment such as an organ transplant or blood transfusion? Is that person entitled to exercise that same right? What if the parents are just cold hearted bastards who simply do not want to save the child’s life for whatever reason? The law cannot play favorites. Any parent who would deny the child such a life-saving surgery should be judged by a jury of his or her peers.”

By your own argument, if I’m an atheist and I refuse to treat my own terminal cancer, I should be brought up on charges of attempted suicide and given the same sentence as someone who OD’ed on sleeping pills.

I find this thought absurd. If moral/religious conviction becomes legislated in ANY way, we ALL LOSE. Just because I don’t agree with someone’s religious preferences, or I think they are silly for refusing treatment, doesn’t mean that I’m right and they’re wrong. Mindwyrm has it right when he says “A parent who refuses to take a child to the doctor due to religious reasons is doing so, but in a way you or I wouldn't agree with. The way they see it, modern medicine endangers the child's soul and that has a far higher importance than the body. do I agree with that? Absolutely not, but it is the parents call to make, not yours or mine and most definitely not the states.”

Now, to argue the flip-side, I do totally agree that parents do have some level of responsibility to provide for their children, until they are of an age to care for themselves. Parents who are guilty of true neglect need to be punished appropriately for it. Unfortunately, we are disagreeing on what the definition of neglect or abuse is.

To reference Webster’s:
Abuse: Cruel or inhumane treatment. A rude expression intended to hurt. Improper excessive use. To treat badly
Neglect: Lack of attention and due care. The state of something that has been unused. Lack of Care and attention. The trait of neglecting responsibilities and lacking concern. Failure to act with the prudence that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances.

To me, a parent who makes a conscious decision to withhold medical treatment due to concern for the child (for their soul, the pain they’d have to endure, the long term side-effects of the treatment, etc…) cannot, by definition be accused of abuse or neglect.. It’s the same care and deliberation they’d give themselves.

It appears that you’re and A.L.L.’s argument would be that the State should be able to override such conscious decisions and foist treatment that could in some ways be construed as abuse itself. Since when is dying from cancer a worse option than the pain the chemo and radiation therapy causes? In what way is dialysis enjoyable? When does the pain of a bone-marrow transplant stop being ‘pain’? Why is the skin scrubbing that burn patients must endure not considered torture? Why should a child be forced to endure these treatments when an adult could choose to stop them? Why is it the STATE’S business to answer these questions rather than something that should be decided between docotor and patient/guardian?

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Aimee Littau said...

Kes said
"Since when is dying from cancer a worse option than the pain the chemo and radiation therapy causes? In what way is dialysis enjoyable? When does the pain of a bone-marrow transplant stop being ‘pain’? Why is the skin scrubbing that burn patients must endure not considered torture? Why should a child be forced to endure these treatments when an adult could choose to stop them? Why is it the STATE’S business to answer these questions rather than something that should be decided between docotor and patient/guardian?"

That's what is frustrating. Adults who don't agree with medical science aren't seeing doctors at all. They don't know what illness their child may have. Which is worse, making a child suffer, not knowing what they are suffering from, or getting them treated, painful or not? No one said that treating cancer isn't painful, or that being scrubbed after a burn isn't torture, but that person is alive, and being treated for it. There was an officer here in Az. that was burned over 90% of his body after his patrol car was hit from behind. He is scarred for life, will never look the same again... but he got the treatment he needed, his wife is still with him, and his kids still have a father, but isn't that what treatment is all about... getting to the end result?
It's like my latest pregnancy, it was hell. I can't tell you how many times I was in the hospital during it. Without the help though, my daughter might not be here, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat...because of the end result. Before my daughter was born, I had a miscarriage. I sought treatment, but there was nothing that could be done, it was meant to be. Had I not gone to the emeregency room and been told what was happening, and why, I know I would be blaming myself for losing my baby for the rest of my life, so I know first hand that things don't always work out, and that there is pain involved, be it physical, emotional, or both. But we tried again, and now have a healthy baby girl.
Seeking treatment does not guarantee complete recovery, but one would never know without putting forth the effort. Anyway...

I found an interesting article from the American Academy of Pediatrics which I will link at the end, but there are some points I would like to touch on.
[...] "Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion do not permit children to be harmed through religious practices, nor do they allow religion to be a valid legal defense when an individual harms or neglects a child."

[...] The AAP asserts that *every child* should have the opportunity to grow and develop free from preventable illness or injury. Children also have the *right* to appropriate medical evaluation when it is likely that a serious illness, injury, or other medical condition endangers their lives or threatens substantial harm or suffering. Under these circumstances, parents and other guardians have a *responsibility* to seek medical treatment, **regardless** of their religious beliefs and preferences.

[...] "The AAP therefore supports the use of appropriate public health measures, such as mandatory mass vaccinations in epidemic situations, when necessary to protect communities and their unimmunized members. In addition, the AAP is concerned that children unimmunized for any reason may expose young children not old enough to be protected, to infections such as pertussis (whooping cough) or invasive Haemophilus influenzae disease. The risk is especially high in child care facilities. In such situations, all parents of children in the facility should be informed of the hazards."
Why should I, being a responsible parent who is getting my child immunized have to worry about the kids around him or her that are not? It is bad enough having to deal with the common cold in day cares and schools? Here is another good link. The first story is about a child who died from exposure to pertussis because of someone not having their own child immunized. This baby was too young to get the shot. From reading these stories, it might not be a bad idea for adults to get re-immunized with the hib shot so that if they are exposed, they do not pass it on to their babies. It is so maddening that this can be prevented if people had their children immunized. http://www.pertussis.com/share.html

To me, this last statement says it all. [...] "The AAP believes that laws should not encourage of tolerate parental activity that prevent implementing appropriate medical treatment, nor should laws exempt parents from criminal or civil liability in the name of religion." http://www.cirp.org/library/ethics/AAP3/

I could go on forever taking pieces from this article that reinforces what Stephen has been saying. My question is why would this be so unreasonable to ask of religious parents?

Furthermore, based on our shared beliefs among the host and those who have responded to this post so far that Life (the life of the child), Liberty (liberties the child has limited by the child's ability to express his or her wishes to live or die) and Property (the child owns his or her body; parents do not own the child as property but should always act in the child's best interest) are the only 'true' rights, these rights of the child
trumps the parents'constructed right to practice their religion.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Hi Aimee,

I appreciate your passion and compassion with respect to this issue. I’m a single parent of three kids, whose wellbeing is my highest priority. That said, I’m reluctant to interfere (via the state) with other families’ lifestyle, in terms of healthcare decisions.

Children also have the *right* to appropriate medical evaluation when it is likely that a serious illness, injury, or other medical condition endangers their lives or threatens substantial harm or suffering.

In my mind, rights refer to the ability to be left alone, rather than something to which one is entitled. So, I think the idea that one has a right to medical care (or anything else) implies the obligation of action on the part of a third party. Now, there is a distinction between moral responsibility and legal obligation. I would argue that, in the context of this series, the former is reasonable, whereas the former is not.

My question is why would this be so unreasonable to ask of religious parents?

To be sure, children are vulnerable and incapable of self-sufficiency. Therefore, parents are morally (and legally) responsible for the provision of food and shelter. And even though I’m not religious per se, the First Amendment guarantees the liberty of parents to live according to their religious principles, provided that such practice does not include intentional harm (e.g. handling snakes, suffocation, statutory rape via polygamy, etc.). In other words, the state ought to prevent parents from actively harming their children, as opposed to passively harming them. Excepting, of course, withholding food and liquids.

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