Is having children a societal right or does it go beyond society and into the realm of sacrosanct individual choice that owes no explanation or responsibility to anyone else?
Do children belong to their parents or to society?

Should the severely mentally disabled be allowed to have children if they cannot afford to pay for their upbringing or even understand what it means to be a parent? Does sexual drive always triumph over intellect?
Should there be a means test before the abject poor are allowed to reproduce? Is it a selfish burden on all of society to bring a child into being if there are no established familial resources to support the child’s well-being?
Should the professionally diagnosed mentally ill be allowed to reproduce?

Or are the psychological problems of the parents only needlessly compounded within the offspring?
If a killer is found guilty of a court of law, should that murderer lose the freedom to reproduce because the irony taking a life only to give a life later is too bitter for society to bear?
Should there be an age limit on having children in order to better promise the unborn child a more responsible and vibrant parent? No one under 21 would be allowed to have children and no one over 40 would be allowed to have children, either.

26 Comments

  1. Children belong to everyone.
    Parents only tend them and prepare them for the rest of us not to kill them.
    We went through force sterilization of the mentally ill years ago and it didn’t really work did it? Having a brain deficit is a hard thing to overcome though.
    If the children belong to society then it shouldn’t matter how much money the family has because we’ll look out for them.
    Everyone is mentally ill. Next question.
    Murderers on death row should not be having hetero sex but I know crazy things happen. If Sperm had less toughness we could find a way to zap everything that comes in and out of prisons that would make everything inert and we could include drugs and knives to the zapping.
    The age limit is more interesting. Children should not have children. Really old parents always taint the babies no matter how progressive we think we are. Drugs and medications may make this all possible sooner than we like.

  2. Great reply, Anne!
    It’s daring for you to claim parents only tend children. It’s an interesting concept that children belong to us all. We might be kinder to the parents if we all felt that way about the children.
    I’m not sure I buy your mentally ill argument but the rest of what you say is insightful analysis and I thank you for playing!

  3. At age 21 I was told that I would have to take medication every day of life in order to combat my mental illness. And I do.
    While I agree that it is a consideration, (should one pass on one’s mental illness by having children) I think it is offensive to assert that mentally ill people have no right to reproduce. Although I have no children, it is my right and if I had wanted to have children, I would have. Regardless of my mental illness. It is very closed minded of you to assert that the mentally ill have no right to reproduce. (Maybe you weren’t asserting that, maybe you were just asking the question…)
    Should deaf people be allowed to reproduce? Or are the hearing problems of the parents only needlessly compounded within the offspring?

  4. Doesn’t it seem that the crazy seem to reproduce more than the relatively sane among us?
    Most people limit their desires to achieve certain goals. They’ll stop having children when they have two kids so that they can maintain a comfortable lifestyle for their family.
    But, when someone is mentally ill, either seriously or just slightly (i.e. sexual addiction), they don’t seem to have the same normal limits that others in society have. Some desires can either ramp up or fade away. Things seem to go to extremes and sometimes children are the result of these episodes.
    Usually, the kids end up with the grandparents in these types of situations.
    I would hate to turn the kids over to society.
    It means that the government will get to raise them eventually. And, we know the government is always tempted to do things in its own interest. If the society/government got to make decisions on reproduction, couldn’t they determine at it was in the national interest to create a super race that could dominate the world?
    It happened in Germany.
    It can happen again.

  5. I’m sorry you don’t like the post today, suzanne. You didn’t have to post a comment if you were so upset because your creation of another line of insult to sooth your own wounding serves no one’s interest but your own.
    I was asking questions in today’s post not pressing for a mandate.
    Since you brought it up… Deaf people were sterilized at one time in this country so they could not reproduce and perpetuate an “imperfect genetic line.”
    The Deaf also had their hands tied behind their back so they could not sign in order to force them to use their voices even though they could not hear their own voices and they hear through their eyes and their hands and the biggest proponent of that hand-tying method was Alexander Graham Bell.
    There are certain religions that believe the reason people are Deaf is because they are not right with God and it is the Devil in their ears.

  6. Having children is not a RIGHT. Those who are unable to provide the children with a proper upbringing and care, should not be having children. Having lots of children was common in older times not only because there was no birth control, but because the more children you had, the more hands you had to help tend the farm. I don’t remember any religious tenet that said have as many children as you possibly can, regardless of your ability to look after them. Commercialized religion has ordained that birth control is a sin, but the sin to me would be having needy children, both monetarily and emotionally.
    That also speaks to the mentally disabled having children: they are not capable of properly caring for the children, some can’t even care for themselves, and therefore, should not be reproducing, never mind the issue of genetic inadequacies which may be passed on.
    Children do not belong to society any more than adults do, they are ‘members’ of the society and parents are responsible for raising their children with morals/ethics that make the children productive members of society.
    In a society where everyone seems to reproduce regardless of their abilities to look after the children, it seems that sexual drive does triumph over intellect, with no thought for the consequences.
    The problem with having a test to determine abject poorness is that someone else will determine the standards. There may be many “poor” people who can look after their children in a loving way and raise them without all the luxuries, but who would determine the line between poor and middle-class or rich, especially since government is always catering to the special interest group of the time. Where poorness is obvious, such as when adults have no means to look after themselves, they should not be having children either. Sex for recreation because there’s no money to do something else, should not lead to childbirth and so it is a selfish act to reproduce when you can’t afford to look after children.
    Murderers should have their luxuries removed, and having children is ideally a luxury that one can afford, again, not a right.
    Older people should be required to be tested in some way to determine that they are able to bring healthy children into the world and, if not, should not be allowed to reproduce. Older people are more likely to be economically stable than younger people, and supposedly able to provide more to children on an economical scale. However, that doesn’t mean that at an older, less vibrant age, they would make better parents.

  7. Chris!
    Right!
    You presage precisely the evil lurking in the manipulation of reproductive rights. There is a fine and thin line that society dances around in order to give sense to the disorder.
    There was a psychological study done a while ago that proved the older the father the greater the chance the child would have schizophrenia.
    It was an important study because conventional thinking had always been the onus for the health of the child belonged in the mother’s womb — as long as she was healthy and “viable” the baby would likely be healthy and the father was just seen as a sort of “sperm donor” in the health of the baby beyond basic family genetics.
    The study began to suggest that, like women, men may have a limited window for optimum fertility to aid in the health of their children.
    The idea of the 89-year-old virile father with an active sperm count quickly loses its lust factor as the possibility for mental illness in offspring increases.
    I have done a lot of service work in the field and I have seen how difficult it is for the severely mentally ill to raise and care for a child and usually the moment the baby is born another family takes over the parental role to raise the child and if there isn’t immediate family available or willing to take that role, the baby is placed in foster care as a ward of the state and we all become the responsible parent for the welfare of what is basically an abandoned baby.

  8. I’ve always had strong beliefs on this with all the news stories I’ve heard of children being beaten or not bathed or starving because the mother can’t afford to take care of them. Kids being born from incest or born from someone who’s a drug addict. Obviously there is no way to stop or control this but I wish there were. Whenever I get to thinking about this it makes my head hurt…I just wish everyone had to go through a long (and detailed) parenting course before they could have children. I mean if they can do that for marriage why not having children?

  9. jafer —
    Wowser! What a message! (I love the Canadian flag on your Avatar!)
    I agree just being able to have children doesn’t mean you have the right to have children. There is a greater responsible to the child and the rest of us that gets lost or sunk in the throes of passion.
    I thank you for taking today’s post and chewing on it, tasting it and then spitting out your thoughts for the rest of us to devour!
    You thoughtful ruminations are a pleasing read and you make some aggressive and hard points that I certainly appreciate.

  10. Dave —
    Isn’t there a shot for men available right now that makes them temporarily sterile?
    We’ll have government monitoring of all children. The moment a female child has her period, a report will be made to Homeland Security who will do a full physical to make sure all membranes are intact (we love to imitate the British Royal family) and then give her the new “No Babies Yet” shot that must be in development somewhere in some developing country.
    When a male child is born, he’ll be genetically altered by FEMA to prevent any nasty notions of having a hurricane in the pants that threatens levee breaking or hymen busting.
    Seriously… if there’s a will, there’s a way… but the unwanted baby issue isn’t going away and neither is the anti-abortion faction… so how can we find the negotiable middle-ground where rational people meet to discuss these kinds of hot-button social concepts?

  11. I have a question.
    Are we (everyone – regardless the status of mentally fit, mentally ill….. though at times I feel like their passion are more honest than the so called mentally fit people like us)emotionally matured enough to raise a child to be a good human being? More humane that we are? A good global citizen? More compassionate than we are?

  12. Hi Katha —
    You ask a wonderful question. How do we know we are prepared to be parents?
    What must go through the mind of a young woman raped by her father and forced to bring the baby to term to only throw it out of a window down an air shaft:
    http://urbansemiotic.com/2005/09/30/where-babies-go-to-die/
    Your question harbors horrors and begs no question of maturity but one of humanity as you so rightly wonder.
    I think all parents want their children to have a better life than they had and the current 20-something generation is the first generation that will likely, as a whole, NOT live better than their parents. We are headed backwards down the wrong path as a nation and the soon result will be headlong crash into the hopes of our past.

  13. Oh, Dave!
    You know we’re stuck as the “I remember when” generation where we can still fondly remember how we were able to discuss ideas out in the open and disagree with each other and not be threatened with a lawsuit or being labeled an “insurgent” and tossed into Abu Ghraib to cool our cheap political shoes.
    I actually think you’re going to need to soon show your Passport in order to create a child in America and you might enjoy this from today’s New York Times as proof of the concept:
    Buried in the nearly 800-page federal budget bill is a nasty little provision, ostensibly aimed at immigrants, that will make it difficult for many poverty-stricken U.S. citizens to get the health care they are entitled to under Medicaid. Advocates believe that the provision, which will require Medicaid applicants to document their U.S. citizenship (which means producing a passport or birth certificate), may be especially harmful to poor blacks, most of whom do not have passports and many of whom do not have birth certificates.
    There are no exceptions to this onerous provision, not even for people with serious physical or mental impairments, including Alzheimer’s disease.
    The problem will come when poor people who are ill get sucked into a nightmare of documentation when their focus should be on their illness. [Advocates noted] “Many individuals who require Medicaid coverage – such as people affected by emergencies like Hurricane Katrina, homeless people or those with mental illness – may be unable to get Medicaid promptly when they need it because they do not have such documents in their possession.”
    Many poor people live far from the cities or towns where they were born and do not have ready access to their birth certificates. And, as the center said, a large number of African-American women, especially in the South, were unable to give birth in hospitals because of racial discrimination. Many of them never received birth certificates for their babies….

  14. I am relatively new to this country (exactly 1 year 4 mothns old in USA) and not that well aware of the current social scenario – though I know the American history a bit. Just out of curiosity – why do you think that the current 20 something generation is headed backwords?
    And probably what I wanted to mean by ”good human being” is ”responsible human being” – so that a young woman won’t be raped by her own father any more.
    Sounds Utopian? Let’s hope for the best! And do accordingly!

  15. Hi Katha!
    It is great to have you here with us and I bet you have a lot of interesting stories about living here!
    The current 20-something generation in America, the theory goes, will not have a better house than their parents, earn more money than their parents or have better social-status job than their parents. The history of America is every generation — every 20 years or so — moves up the ladder of industry, money and success to better their parent’s caste in life.
    That overleaping enables the children to then economically provide for their elderly parents as the child becomes the parent.
    The average age of when a child would leave home in America used to be 18 over 20 years ago and now that average age is 23.
    The 20-somethings today cannot find work or the work doesn’t pay enough and so the kids are stuck at home to live longer with the parents because the economy does not allow them to strike out on their own.
    Everything then gets delayed: the first car, the first home, the first child, the first job – and you have a generation of people living in stasis waiting for their lives to start.
    The cascading negative result is that the overall American economy stifles as well because the young generation with access to money doesn’t have any money and can’t make big purchases.
    So as the parents of these 20-somethings age and the children are unable to care for them economically you have a backwards trend in the prosperity and cogency of a generation.
    We just finished the “X Generation” and now we’re into the “Lost Generation.”

  16. It makes me sick, too, Dave, and I’m sure there’s some kind of government ID that will equal a Passport.
    There isn’t much outrage, though.
    We aren’t hearing much about this in the mainstream media.
    The mainstream media are cowed and defeated.

  17. David,
    Thank you for this wonderful explanation. Are we talking about ”generation why?” Truely, the picture looks a bit bleak –
    And yes, I do have some interesting stories to share!

  18. This is a massively difficult question, I am very aware and shocked by some horror stories such as baby P where the parents are obviously mental sickos.
    Quality of life is bound to be affected on a general scale by rampant uncontrolled population growth, and increasingly more it seems from the evidence of how twenty year olds are unable to expand.
    People now are called Malthusians, in a possibly derogatory way, it considered amusing that Malthus, back in the 19thC is supposed to have stated there were too many people in the world-actually he said, as I have, that constant uncontrolled mass population INCREASE that causes instability, poverty, etc. Global warming too?

  19. Not that this is ‘godspel’. It is intersting that Keynes, highly regarded bythe 1980’s Thatcherites among other enterpreneurial types, , expressed high regard for Malthus, as opposed to Rickardo, a contemporary economist, whose ideas, along with the mad rush of mid 19th century industrial expansion, took over and swamped the remnants of an earlier age, of the enlightenement and the Romantics. Brrittishh sillieness?
    It seems obvious that education and communication and understanding are the way
    that such problems as population surge can be avoided.
    Even the description ‘mentally ill’ is, largely relative, for example, to the conditions of madness in the insane rush of chaos that now engulfs us all in early 2100s.
    Perhaps we are all the mentally ill…any ideas?

    1. Yes, I think many of us are a bit mentally unstable — and that’s why the rise of psychology as a cudgel for forcing “proper behavior” is so threatening to those who have different minds and who perceive the world in a unique, non-dangerous, way. When there is the legal power to punish people for merely thinking and believing one way, and not the other, we are all placed in danger in that false faith.