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#9: Ban Baby-Making Unless Parents Are Licensed
Hank Pellissier   Dec 23, 2011   Ethical Technology  

For the sake of the children, let’s control human breeding. No one should be permitted to reproduce until they pass a battery of tests.



#9
According to IEET readers, what were the most stimulating stories of 2011? This month we’re answering that question by posting a countdown of our top 12 articles, based on how many total hits each one received.

The following piece was first published here on April 20, 2011, and is the 9th most viewed this year.




Does that proposal enrage you? Go ahead, hate me. Call me vile names like “Neo-Nazi-Elitist-Baby-Killing-Totalitarian-Sicko.” Or simply “Eugenicist.” I don’t care. I know I’m right.

It’s blatantly clear that 15-year-old intoxicated half-wits can easily spawn, but should they? Hell no. Let’s control human breeding, please. Let’s keep babies away from buffoons, and let’s test fetuses meticulously to guarantee healthy infants. No one should be permitted to reproduce unless and until they pass a battery of tests.

Philosophers, psychologists, and social workers have advanced this idea for 30+ years, notably Hugh LaFollette in his seminal essay, “Licensing Parents” (1980), and Peg Tittle, editor of Should Parents Be Licensed? (2004). Their suggested reform—based on humanitarian concerns for the rights of children—is always booed down hysterically with the shrill vocabulary that I listed above.

But the reformers are right. Completely. Ethically. I agree with Joseph Fletcher, who notes, “It is depressing…to realize that most people are accidents,” and with George Schedler, who states, “Society has a duty to ensure that infants are born free of avoidable defects.”

Traditionalists regard pregnancy and parenting as a natural right that should never be curtailed. But what’s the result of this laissez-faire attitude? Catastrophic suffering. Millions of children born disadvantaged, crippled in childhood, destroyed in adolescence. Procreation cannot be classified as a self-indulgent privilege—it needs to be viewed as a life-and-death responsibility.

dying child


Look at it this way: adoption centers don’t allow knuckleheads to walk out with a child; they maintain standards that we should apply to every wannabe parent.

Below I’ve compiled a list of deplorable situations caused by flawed individuals who should not be allowed to impregnate, gestate, reproduce, and parent because they’re mentally, physically, emotionally, or genetically unsuitable for the ambitious task.


Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)

Binge-drinking pregnant women are the leading cause of intellectual disability in the Western world. An estimated 2.2 babies out of every 1,000 births emerge with permanent damage to their brain and nervous system. This is more than a mere “problem”—it is an appallingly tragic reduction of a life before that life even began. Children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome consistently have mental retardation, poor impulse and anger control, facial defects, poor memory, motor skills, social skills, judgement, and sensory integration skills. The heartbreaking statistics: 60% end up with ADHD and depression; 23% attempt suicide; 70% are suspended, expelled, or drop out of school; 60% are charged or convicted of crimes; 30% are confined to a mental hospital; 80% have employment problems. Forty thousand babies a year are born in the USA with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, at a projected cost to the nation of over $6 billion annually. Pitiful waste. If every “life is sacred” as religionists claim, why do we allow alcoholic mothers to cripple their fetuses? Legislation can halt this; females with toxic wombs should be placed on contraceptives to prevent them from wounding both the innocents and the greater society.

No Teen Mothers

Jack Westman proposed in his essay, “A National Parenting Policy” (1994) that all mothers first attain the age of 18. Katherine Covell and R. Brian Howe suggested “a high school education as a minimum indicator” in their article, “A Policy of Parent Licensing” (1998). I agree with the HS diploma requirement, but let’s add two more years of hopefully-acquired rationality—let’s round up to 20 years old. Studies indicate that the youngest mothers are often monstrously inferior; they are less likely to be married or employed, but far more likely to beat and/or neglect their kids. If teenagers are seriously itching to get gestating and they don’t know what to do with their time, they can at least study assiduously for the examinations below.

Don’t Flunk These Tests

Parent licensing advocates believe that anyone who wants to raise a child needs to learn the basic principles of healthy guardianship. For example: Are 7-Up and Twinkies a nutritious lunch? Should babies be beaten with a spatula to prevent bed-wetting? Is six hours of television a day “not enough”? The exam should be rigorous, lengthy, and require concentrated study beforehand on topics such as Nutrition, Safety, Behavioral Development, Hygiene, Empathy, and Non-Violent Discipline. Additionally, all prospective parents need to pass a psychological evaluation to eliminate anyone who is volatile, immature, and dangerous. Two present tests that are already available are the Child Abuse Potential Inventory with its 160 questions, and the Kempe Family Stress Check List, with its strong predictive success—80% of abusive families record high scores on this survey.

No Spousal Abusers or Child Beaters

Brace yourselves for the most disgusting data in this essay. Children are frequently killed, raped, tortured, and sadistically neglected by their parents. Perhaps you’re aware of high-profile cases like Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in a Texas bathtub; or Riley Ann Sawyers, aka “Baby Grace,” who was tortured by her parents daily until her skull was cracked against a wall; or Nazir Ahmad of Pakistan, who killed three daughters and a stepdaughter; or Austrian Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter in a cell for 24 years and fathered seven children with her, etc., etc., ad nauseam. What is less known is how regularly this happens. In the USA, 4.82 children die per day of abuse and neglect, and “filicide”—parents murdering children—is the third leading cause of death for American children five to fourteen years old. Who does the murdering? Mommies are more likely to kill infants and toddlers (78% of those killed are younger than four), especially young mothers who are single, separated, or divorced. Dads are more likely to kill kids who are eight years old or older.

Additionally, nearly one million American kids are physically abused, emotionally abused, or neglected each year—a number that is highly conservative since many cases go unreported. The personal damage caused by this brutal mayhem is staggering. Abused children are frequently emotionally scarred for life: 30% will abuse their own children; 80% of criminals were abused by parents; 80% of those who were abused have at least one psychological disorder; and they’re 2.5 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 3.8 times more likely to be drug addicts, and 3.0 times less likely to practice safe sex.

Abused kids are susceptible to poor physical health, chronic fatigue, obesity, hypertension, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicide, post-traumatic stress syndrome, social difficulties, cognitive dysfunction, aggression, high risk behavior, and criminality. The bill for child abuse is an annual cost to society of $103.8 billion! Expense categories include Hospitalization, Chronic Health Problems, Mental Health Problems, Child Welfare System, Law Enforcement, Judicial System, Special Education, Juvenile Delinquency, Adult Criminality, and Lost Productivity. Legal costs alone are astronomical—it takes an average of 44 months to rescue an abused child.

What can be done to alleviate this atrocity? Licensing can help. For starters, it’s estimated that 33% of spousal abusers have the potential to be child abusers. To safeguard children, parent licensing could be denied to those who batter their partners, and to anyone else who has a chronic record of assaulting others, especially children. Psychological questionnaires could also be utilized—people who flunk could be given the option to re-test, after taking classes in stress reduction and anger management.

Enough Is Enough

Nadya Suleman—the “Octo-Mom” welfare recipient and single mother who added to her original brood of six children by simultaneously producing eight more—is obviously the poster icon in this category. Even the most libertarian, keep-the-government-out-of-my-family demagogues were irate with Suleman’s decision to bump up to 14 kids, because she’s incapable of handling even a fraction of that amount. Parents who demonstrate inadequacy with the present total of children in their nest should be prevented from causing additional chaos. Isn’t it sensible to require citizenry to limit their progeny to manageable sums? What’s the maximum? Two? Three? Four? Variable, in my opinion. Depending on parents’ ability to provide love and basic needs.

No Drug Addicts

It is estimated that 0.5 to 3% of women use cocaine when they’re pregnant, increasing the “crack baby” risk of premature birth, ADD, congenital defects, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), respiratory distress syndrome, and other ailments. Although not as damaging as fetal alcohol syndrome, it is clearly evident that drug addiction leads to disastrous parenting. Licensing needs to be denied to those with substance abuse issues. Should drug tests be applied to sniff out the addicts? Oh—you think this violates personal freedom? Don’t be daft—it safeguards newborns, and alleviates the tragedy of damaged children bounced around in foster homes and health clinics. Yes! Let’s see clean urine before Mommy and Daddy permission slips are awarded.

No Dangerous Religious Fanatics

Tragically, there are parents who don’t want their kids to seek medical treatment or take antibiotics because their pneumonia was ordained by “God.” Other parents believe their daughters should be beaten or murdered if they shame the family name by engaging in premarital sex. Licensing Exams need to include questions that ferret out the religio-cultural nuts who will grievously harm their offspring if archaic dictums are disobeyed. But… you wonder… doesn’t this infringe on Separation of Church and State? My counter is that children also have inalienable rights—“Life” is one of them—that supersede the damaging desires of their parents.

No Parents with Life-Diminishing Illnesses, Phobias, Weirdness, or Inability to Love

A broad category here that can be debated exhaustively. Obviously, adults who suffer from chronic fatigue are going to be severely challenged if they have insomniac twins who need long burping bouts every 90 minutes. Germophobic parents are going to be incapacitated by the constant grime of their spewing, leaking spawn. Narcissists and Autistics need to prove that they are capable of overcoming or compensating for their empathetic liabilities. All potential parents need to demonstrate that they have sufficient energy and skills to establish an emotional bond with their child.

No Genetically-Transmitted Severe Mental and Physical Liabilities

There are more than four thousand genetic disorders, with every human carrying up to a dozen heritable traits—either dominant or recessive—that potentially can cripple their children. An estimated twelve million Americans are born with genetic disorders. However—thanks to genetic testing—mutations can be ascertained in advance in both parents, with an estimate provided of the child’s chances of inheriting the malignancy. A government agency should be established to mandate genetic testing for both parents prior to pregnancy. Would this be expensive? Yes, but it would be minor compared to the astronomical long-term costs of treating the diseases. For example, if all American Jews were screened for Tay-Sachs, the total bill would be less than 10% of the cost of the current treatment for the 1,000+ Tay-Sachs cases that exist solely because they were never predicted. Fetal testing should also be mandated. Another estimate says the cost of detecting and aborting all Downs Syndrome fetuses would only be 30% of what it costs the state to care for them.

The list of horrible diseases in this avoidable category is lengthy and susceptible to argumentation. Huntington’s Disease—a fatal, degenerative, neurological malady—is a strong candidate to be included, as is Phenylketonuria (PKU) with its serious retardation. Other probable entries are cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. But… do we also have a moral responsibility to halt hemophilia? Sickle-cell anemia? Bipolar disorder? What about parents with HIV/AIDS? Should they be permitted to bear children that have a 25-35% chance of inheriting the disease? Should couples who are likely to produce children with genetic disorders be allowed to reproduce? What percentile of risk is deemed “too high”? Many ethicists have defined a 25% chance that the offspring would be affected or a 50% chance that the child would be a “carrier” as unacceptable. I agree, this is far too high of a gamble.


Conclusion

I have amassed a mess of grim facts here to buttress my proposal that America needs to mandate Parent Licenses. Obviously, it would require state and medical enforcement to guarantee that no children were ever born, or raised, by parents who weren’t licensed. This article won’t outline all the possible procedures that could be used to enact this, but it seems that the best method for women would be a contraceptive device that suppressed fertility or impregnation in all unlicensed females, administered to girls in their early teens.

I want to end this essay on a cheery, optimistic note. Imagine, please, all the benefits our society could deliver to children if the billions of dollars that we allocate annually to repair the damage done by wretched parents were spent on something else… Education, perhaps. Free College? Free PreSchool? Superior Public Schools?

Or maybe… the billions saved could just be divided up and delivered in hefty stipends? Thousands of dollars—sent to the licensed parents—to aid them in the nurturing of their children.

Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.



COMMENTS

If we take this idea in conjunction with the concept of artificial wombs (which I think might be problematic for a number of reasons) it becomes possible since one would be controlling the source of babies and not trying to coerce behaviour. The problem is that there are strong indications that a great deal of interaction goes on in the womb and removing that may delay child development.

I think a better solution is already showing up in the countries that you show as “feminist friendly” and that is proper education and access to birth control. Educated girls will statistically become sexually active later, use birth control, become pregnant later and be better parents. That deals with a great deal of the concerns you raise without the state needing to implant birth control in pre-teens.

Alex—thanks for your comments - the concept of artificial wombs does indeed alleviate many of the problems that I talk about in this essay, but Artificial Wombs are many many years away.

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