The  Right to a Child

A UN Convention?

Needed: A United Nations Convention on the Right to Reproduce – that is, a declared right for every adult to have a healthy child, if that is  possible, and for that child to have sufficient opportunity to grow up a healthy child.  ONE child each, that is, two per couple.

The advantages of such a convention:

  • Everybody has this right.  It applies to all peoples, in both developed and undeveloped countries. It requires work to make this possible.
  • It obliges a commitment by governments, communities, individuals and the world in general to make it possible for all these children to have sufficient opportunity to be reared as healthy children.  This corollary is a vital feature of the Convention.
  • It is a positive, not a negative statement, and prevents accusations of being genocidal.
  • It is in the interests of children.
  • Communities would value and share in their children, to avoid the situation of  singletons living in boxes with a parent.

This convention does not give a right to anyone to have more than one child each. Government policies can even discourage having more.  

It gives no right to political and religious groups to indulge in outbreeding each other.

Pronatalist groups can hardly deny the value of giving all people a right to have a child of their own, and off effort globally to ensure conditions that allow them to be reared decently.

The urgency of this convention:

Growing population is compounding all the increasing problems of the world. It will soon outstrip the present availability of food to feed all even if it was all fairly distributed. Nine billion people before 2050 is unsustainable. Two thirds of the 6 billion people in the world already suffer from shortages and natural disasters. Twenty million are economic refugees and the numbers increase – to go where? Rates of growth are slowing, but the actual numbers are increasing.

A present dilemma of family planning as a humane solution is that accusations of genocide can be made, because rich Western countries, including Australia, are seeking pronatalist policies to keep their own populations from stabilizing or declining.

Major reasons for larger families in poor places are that there is no social security for old age, and high child mortality.  So there is hope that out of many children born one at least may survive to work and care for their parents. It is tragic if a family has only a few children and they all die because conditions are so poor. The insistence in the Convention that the children born must be given assurance of adequate care, can help to reduce the likelihood of this calamity. 

‘Pro-Lifers’ opposed to contraception accuse supporters of family planning or the last resort of abortion as being ‘Anti-Life’. But truly, to have life ‘more abundantly’ is about quality, and to care about this is compassion.

Far too many children are born unwanted, or into families where they suffer abominably.  Large families increase the poverty of the poor, and reduce the chances of their children.  In the Philippines, 57% of poor families have nine or more children.  An Ethiopian father, urged to try to sell his drought-stricken farm and move jobless to the city, cried, ‘But I have 13 children!’ Poverty is greatest in countries with the greatest population growth.

However wealthy, people with large families should not feel that they are doing their bit for their country – they are contributing to coming population problems. For all child-lovers, we should have community that can share in our children, for their care and our pleasure, so that neighborhood life can be like large families, but none suffer disadvantage.

The West has had tremendous compassion in bringing health-care and food aid to poorer countries.  It has not done the sums about the costs of its intervention. It has been folly not to replace the removal of the inhumane Malthusian population checks of disease, wars, famines and cruel social practices  by assistance in humane family planning. Population growth is outsmarting the attempts to prevent poverty. Pictures in appeals for help by aid organizations commonly include a mother with a baby on her back and toddlers at foot.  Possible consequences of continuing the series of babies have not been thought through.

At the opposite extreme of It=Seemed-A-Good-Idea at the time (ISAGIATT) has been the drastic Chinese One-Child-Policy, with its many undesirable consequences including skewing gender ratios, and now the shortage of marriageable girls making them a trade item. 

In the West until recently population growth ensured more labor and mass markets. Now there may be necessary economic stability.

What can be done: The consequences of a Right to Reproduce – one per person = two per couple. How it could work out.

Educating girls is proven the best way to lower birth rates, because then women have more ability to access knowledge and   realise that they can have the children they want and can cope with, but need not blame Fate or the Lord’s Will that they must have more. Later marriage spaces generations wider, and slows population growth.

Western countries need to stop their pronatalist policies. If they need more people for cheap labour to crowd their countryside, they should do more to ensure that the cultural heritages they prize are transmitted to them too.

Governments can provide baby bonuses and child-care assistance for the first child of every adult (i.e. father or mother, or second child of a couple), and more generous for those who have postponed their first child until over the age of twenty. This has multiple advantages both for the child, parent and for population growth.  There is assistance for childcare, schooling and tertiary training. But this child-assistance cannot encourage parents to have more children to gain more welfare benefits, as can happen now.

Government financial assistance for IVF or similar aid for infertile couples is also for the first/second child only.

Nobody is prevented from having further children, but it is their responsibility – except for?  What about the irresponsible parents, and the unexpected children that any family may have? What of parents of proven unfitness to have more children?  Fetal alcohol syndrome can go over generations, so that a community can be riddled with people unable to care for themselves let alone their children.  The increasing numbers and costs of foster-children and institutionalised children are appalling and their chances in life are poor.  Here there will controversy – but I am on the side of the rights of the child, rather than parents’ rights to children as possessions.

Pro-natalists point to examples of children born under severe handicaps of all sorts who have made good, to claim a right that all intercourse should carry the possibility of life, however much suffering may result.  They do not go quite so far as to say that no sperm at all should go without a chance of fertilising an egg, but some will even argue for prevention of abortion or the natural miscarriages   happen to one in ten of women in their twenties p to half of women over 40 because the developing child is abnormal.  However, today, doctors who have been exuberant over their skill in saving life-threatened infants such as severe spina bifida, have become less proud of playing God when they see the desperate lives they have doomed for child and its family.

Women and ‘ too many children’ cannot be expected to suffer for theological or patriarchal or political purposes. There can be more thought and care by parents who want more children, and by those who do not want more.  When everyone has a right and assistance to ‘one-child-each/two-per-couple’ then those children can be more greatly valued for their own worth.

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