Mandating Good Parenting?

“Can Motherhood be Criminalized?” by Kathy McManus

(Click on the link above to go to the article)

My Thoughts:

“She has a fundamental right to reproduce, so I couldn’t order her to be sterilized. But she can be forced to forfeit certain fundamental rights.”

I have conflicting emotions about this article.  Of course child abuse is wrong and we should do everything humanly possible to prevent it.  But on the other hand is taking away a woman’s right to reproduce the answer?  Then, I asked myself if the judge was sentencing a man to forfeit his right to reproduce would I be as conflicted and upset?  The answer: probably not.  That’s when I knew I needed to take a deeper look.

I have often thought that there are some people who should just not be able to reproduce, whether I am joking around after hearing a story about something incredibly stupid someone did, or listening to a woman’s story at work about her childhood.  I find myself upset at irresponsible and neglectful parents.  This is normal and I believe the appropriate response.  I do not know whether or not it is “hardwired” into us as a culture to want to protect our children, but there is something deep inside of me that reacts when I think about a child being the recipient of any type of violence.  There should be serious repercussions for perpetrators of child abuse.

On the other hand, there is so much more at play in a story, and when we do not know the whole thing we need to be careful with our judgements.  What is known about domestic violence is that it is very complicated.  Maybe the fact that men are more likely to be perpetrators is why I would have an easier time agreeing with the sentence if the recipient was a man.  It might also have to do with the fact that I am a woman and can more easily identify with the woman in the article.  I still wouldn’t wholly agree, but it would be easier to accept.  Either way, I wonder if restricting a person’s reproductive rights (and/or ability) is the right course of action.  This seems to be bordering on something much more dangerous and is beginning to sound a little Brave New World(y)…

Thoughts from you?

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5 thoughts on “Mandating Good Parenting?

  1. Rob says:

    1) There have been cases where male castration has been a result of legal proceedings, usually in rape cases. The last story I remember from that was perhaps 10 years ago and similarly there was question of “cruel and unusual punishment”, though in that case the convicted rapist actually asked for the castration to be part of his punishment.

    2) I think that it would be correct to order the mother to never be in contact with the father in the future, and vice-versa – kinda a mutual non-contact order. That would be sufficient for the needs.

    3) The story doesn’t say how old the father was, but the mother was probably 18 at the age of conception. People are ready for different responsibilities at different ages. We are a society that is very heavy on rights, but very weak on postponing utilizing those rights until we’re ready to take on the responsibilities that automatically come with the rights. Both parents have shown weakness in responsibility (in the abuse and in the lack of protection for the child). That she is only getting a suspended sentence is interesting, but I read the probation “requirement” as giving her time to mature.

    4) I hadn’t thought about this until typing the above paragraph, so I’ve pulled the point out here: The father is actually prevented from reproducing for 15 years due to being in prison. Is that troubling? Is that cruel and unusual? Remember they were both convicted, but she received a suspended sentence.

    4) It pains me to use the words “mother”, “father”, and “parents” in typing this reply, given the result to the child.

    • The idea of being in prison and therefore unable to have children isn’t as troubling for me. It is not directly stating “you may not have children” even though the result is the same. If the woman had gone to prison instead, it would have bothered me, but for different reasons. Not being able to have babies because you are in prison feels different to me than being told. Maybe it is all the semantics but the feel is definitely different.

      The idea of giving her time to mature is interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way. There is a piece of me that wishes we could not have children till around age 25. 🙂

      PS aren’t prisoners allowed conjugal visits?

      • Rob says:

        Having never been a prisoner, I don’t know if they’re allowed conjugal visits… 😉 I think it varies by jurisdiction, and can you imagine conjugal visits between this father and this mother? Yeesh…

        I feel the same difference, but it was only because you made me look at the story for some depth that made me think about whether or not there’s a legal difference between “he’s in prison” and her being convicted and has a suspended sentence. Not found not-guilty, and not “convicted, already served time, but now out on parole”. In other words, they’re both freshly found at fault with no current time/evidence that they’ve learned from their transgressions, and only by the grace of the system is she out and he in. It could have everything to do with a different charge (he could be battery plus child endangerment, while she’s just convicted of child endangerment), but nonetheless – everything we do in this society to protect every child from every possible harm (a topic for a different day…) would point towards placing some control on her reproductive rights until she’s shown that she wouldn’t endanger the next child. I know I’ve made assumptions in this paragraph that might not match the facts – I’ve only read the link you gave for background on the story – forgive me if I err.

        Looking at the story now, I think a better answer might have been “don’t reproduce for 10 years, or until you prove to the court that you’ve learned better child-rearing techniques (through parenting classes, or some equivalent).”

        We pride ourselves on raising our kids smarter and smarter than previous generations. If only we’d raise them wiser and wiser.

        Thoughts on that as a better result for the case?

  2. I really like the idea of parenting classes. I think that would have been appropriate in this case. Maybe also some sort of abuse or domestic violence counseling.

    I know that they have “John School” for men who are caught buying sex. This is obviously different but perhaps follows the same principle.

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