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Ban Baby-Making Unless Parents Are Licensed - a compassionate request for the unborn

Posted: Fri, May 17, 2013 | By: Politics



by Hank Pellissier

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.

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. 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.

When I originally published this essay two years ago at the website of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology, my proposal was greeted with horror and anger. A survey of readers was initiated and 80% of those polled disagreed with my opinion.Times are changing though; the populace is moving quickly towards my POV. When I reposted the essay a year ago, reaction divided about 60% against and 40% in favor of my ideas - a considerable gain.

The recent novel - The Transhumanist Wager - by SF Bay Area writer Zoltan Istvan, supports my suggestion. On page 282 Jethro Knights, the global transhumanist leader, announces:

Transhumania will implement a strict family planning policy: People who can reasonably and successfully raise children will be allowed to procreate and encouraged to do so; all others will not be allowed to procreate.

 

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.

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.

newborns addicted to pain pills up 300%
newborns addicted to pain pills up 300%

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?

The billions saved could be delivered in hefty stipends to the licensed parents—to aid them in the nurturing of their children.

Or… the billions saved could be spent solving all the physical, mental, genetic, and social problems that require this measure to be installed in the first place…



Comments:

Thanks Hank for the courage to put this out, amidst the no doubt many valid criticisims it would draw. While not a supporter of where eugenics leads us, nor of judging parental fitness particularly at the margins, your section on child abuse, among others, in particular needs to be heard loud and clear. I would advocate going a step further. As a parent, I say what parent worthy of being called human, could object to the occasional, if inconvenient, oversight of their parenting, so that ALL children will be protected from the horrific abuse at the hands of their makers that we see on the news everyday.

By John Hewitt on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:03pm

Something really positive about gays & lesbians is: they do not breed, at least not w/out surrogates. Nor do they have many abortions; this is what convinced me against social conservatives—social conservative hearts are in the right place but not their brains.
What is moral is not synonymous with practical, IMO pragmatism trumps ethics 9x out of 10. Moralists will have to learn to cut their losses, they no longer have a choice.
They have to go with the flow.

By Alan Brooks on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:33pm

Hank,
  That is certainly a tough call.I thought about it at length and concluded that I could support it with adequate oversight,the right to appeal,and the opportunity to have “child raising"education.
By the way I might have been declared an unfit parent.I have 4 children,3 of whom are lawyers and the youngest one intends to be one as well.
Where did I fail????

By Tom Mooney on Mar 18, 2013 at 12:31pm

Hank Pellisier’s essay above is not only brave, but it’s incredibly important. If you have time today, please go to Google and search “amount of babies worldwide starving to death every day.”

Most people don’t realize this, but the number is around 17,000. A day!

And its been 70 million children starving to death in the last decade. Folks, something must be done. This is not a child dying from some accident. This is starving. Have you ever seen a starving person in real life? They can be 2/3rds less than their normal body weight. Boils occur all over their skin. Some of their internal organs stop functioning days before death. They no longer look human. It’s horrific and utterly sad.

If you can’t raise your children successfully in this world, you should not be allowed to have children. No one wants an authoritarian policy on child rearing, but 70 million starving deaths in the last decade! Folks, come on. Maybe it’s time for our morality and courage to evolve a little. Maybe it’s time to talk to your friends about this. To send letters to your politicians about this. Maybe it’s time to seek a way to protect the next 70 million children slated to starve to death in the next decade. Parental licensing is a simple, clear way to efficiently tackle the problem.

Thanks for your wonderful article, Hank! Cheers, Zoltan Istvan

By Zoltan Istvan on May 17, 2013 at 12:31pm

While I agree with your intention, Hank, I think it’s misguided.  You’re forgetting a few important points.

First and foremost is the question of who is it that will do the banning.  Do you trust your government enough to make honest and fair rules and decisions on the matter?  What about other governments?  Do you trust the government of Zaire that much?  Or China?  This is something that is important to many people, and it is absolutely a power that would be abused. 

Second, even if you trusted the US or other Western governments enough (and seriously, would you trust the likes of Bush, Obama, Blair, Sarkozy, Harper, Trudeau or their allies with this???) the West is not where the problem lies.  Yes, we have single teen mothers, but we have almost none of the starvation and compared to the less-developed world, those kids have a serious chance to make something valuable of themselves.

Next, we have a population problem - much of the world has a birthrate BELOW 2.1 - that’s below replacement level.  The places where the the rate is higher are NOT the parts of the world with cultures we want to dominate.  The good-guys are in decline, and for the occasional valuable person who will grow out of the genetically less-desirable or drug/alcohol-induced procreation, we need to allow the rest.  We get good people from these situations, and their value is so high as to compensate for the drag from the rest.  *MAYBE* if the high-genetic value couples would procreate more quickly we could consider shutting down the rest, but civil society discourages procreation so much that we need the less-desirable outliers to fill the gap.

By Soch on May 19, 2013 at 9:48am

As a sufferer of an abusive upbringing, I’m very happy to have come across this page. There need to be standards for bringing life into this world. It’s far worse to be born into a life of suffering than to not be born at all. Even in my early 20’s, after years of retrospective psychoanalysis, I still believe I’m just scratching the surface of what caused my life long struggle with social anxiety and an inferiority complex that eats at the root of my personal identity.

Although we can’t enforce a condom into every couple’s romantic evenings, I believe both parents should be certified before the government acknowledges any social security advantages for the child and tax benefits for the parents. The certification program would include courses in nutrition, baby care, and most importantly- psychotherapy/spirituality. We can specifically address those who have problems, and try to help them become loving parents.

Soch brings up a good issue. Today’s system can’t be entrusted with the responsibilities that this kind of regulation requires. We need a government that doesn’t put nearly as much an emphasis on chain of command (creating distance between the rulers and the ruled), and who’s agenda can’t be swayed by financial persuasion. Imagine a country run by Google. If the government was comprised solely by the people being ruled by it, we could trust each other with all the care we need. Our health needs to be taken seriously, it’s not an industry to play the capitalism game with.

By KK on Jan 09, 2014 at 1:51am


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