On Bad Logic, Abortion, and Children’s Rights

Blogger Connie, a homeschool mom with eight children, recently wrote a post on why she opposes regulation of homeschooling. (She says it’s because she doesn’t trust the government.) In that post she approvingly showcased an earlier comment on the topic that had been left by a reader:

Public schools and their employees/programs are required to account and report things, and stay accountable, because they are using public dollars and are essentially employees to public money. As such, they do and ought to provide all kinds of accountability to pretty much everyone and their mother/neighbor/tax paying citizen for their choices in manner and method of providing educational services. Parents using their own dollars to educate their children (who, let’s remember, they’re entitled to execute in utero should they so choose!) don’t owe accountability to the state or anyone else.

Connie is extremely and adamantly pro-life, and so, presumably, was the reader who left that comment. Here’s the problem: You can’t use the fact that abortion is legal to argue that parents should be able to do whatever they want with their children’s education with no accountability if you don’t actually believe abortion should be legal. It doesn’t work that way.

Let me put it like this: Connie appears to be suggesting that because abortion, which she believes amounts to killing your child, is legal, you should logically also be able to do whatever you want to your child once its born. But she also believes that abortion should be banned . . . which means that logically she should also believe that you shouldn’t be able to do whatever you want with your child once it’s born . . . which means she should be in favor of some form of accountability when it comes to homeschooling. Except that she isn’t.

Which brings me to another point: The idea that pro-lifers believe that children only have rights before they’re born. Because isn’t that what’s going on here? Connie balks at the idea of being accountable to the state for how she raises or educates her children. She wants them to leave her alone and let her do whatever she wants with her children. Do I think Connie is an abusive parent? No. I just don’t think she’s entirely thought this through. It’s only before birth that she wants the government to step in and tell women what they can and can’t do with what she views as their children. Before birth? All the rights in the world. After birth? The child is the property of the parent. Accountability? Ha! Parents’ rights.

Which brings me to the other time I’ve seen this same cocktail of arguments and issues. Michael Farris, you see, would very much like to get a parental rights amendment passed. He has drafted one himself, and he has 60 cosponsors in the House. Here is how it reads:

The Proposed Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution


The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.


The parental right to direct education includes the right to choose public, private, religious, or home schools, and the right to make reasonable choices within public schools for one’s child.


Neither the United States nor any State shall infringe these rights without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.


This article shall not be construed to apply to a parental action or decision that would end life.


No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.

So here’s an interesting question: Why is Section 4 even there? If you really thinks you need to add a clause to specify that parents’ rights don’t extend to killing their children, I think you might want to rethink the wording of the rest of your amendment. And if you’re worried enough that the wording might indicate that parents have the right to kill their children that you add an exceptions clause to the contrary, don’t you think you should include more than just death in that exceptions clause? Why not specify that parents can’t torture their children, for instance, or otherwise physically abuse them?

The sad thing is, I know the answer. Farris added Section 4 because some of those involved in the drafting were concerned that the amendment might be used to defend abortion under the banner of parents’ rights. He didn’t add the clause because he was concerned about protecting children from death from child abuse, he added the clause because he was concerned about banning abortion. Because banning abortion, apparently, matters more than ensuring that your parental rights amendment does not make child abuse, child torture, and child murder legal.

You know what? I’m really sick of people claiming to care oh so much about little “babies” murdered during abortion, and not giving a shit about actual born children.

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