No Kids Allowed

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A family court judge in New York tells a couple with four kids under five years old already in foster care that they can't have any more. (The only punishment if they do would be a potential contempt of court charge.)

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  1. Who knows, it could be justifiable. People having children they can not support is tantamount to child abuse. Whether or not it is the court’s job to ban it proactively is arguable. I’d say, however, that if someone has abused their ability to conceive by creating children whom they are abusing, then they have effectively forfeited their right to conceive. The assumption is that a right can be denied as soon as it infringes on the rights of another person – in this case, the right to conception is infringing on the future child’s right to life.

  2. “Neither parent attended the proceeding or secured legal representation. The mother waived her right to a lawyer, and the father never showed up in court.”

    Damn! These are not people who are thinking clearly enough to respond to that ruling, however unconstitutional it may be. Neither of them even accepted help from a public defender. Really, not smart.

    I’m convinced – $10 says they have another baby within the year.

    Budding, young, brilliant attorneys are going to be all over this.

  3. When later found in the local crackhouse and asked for a comment, Darren Smith, father of the children, exhaled a cloud of smake and stated “Judge O’Connor has reached her decision, she may now enforce it”.

  4. I don’t know, this one has me all conflicted. For one, the articles I’ve read never have said why the other 4 children were taken away from them. Was it overt abuse, or squalor, or lack of things, or what? It would be nice to see some expansion on that.

    More conflict comes from the circular logic used to arrive at this ruling. Part of the government’s case is that they are costing the government money by making the kids be taken into foster care (indeed, just about all we have to go on, since the judge’s ruling only mentions children taken care of at public expense). But it was the public that decided to take care of the children in the first place. To then complain about it costing too much and use that as justification for these severe measures seems a bit self-serving.

  5. Highway, not to jump to conclusions, but considering this;

    “Neither parent attended the proceeding or secured legal representation. The mother waived her right to a lawyer, and the father never showed up in court.”

    I can feel a bit comfortable that the public saved what future these kids can potentialy have and probably even saved them from starvation in the short run.

    Now if only those two could be taken out back and shot! Coming up lame and requiring destruction shouldn’t be reserved for broken race horses only.

  6. It’s not that difficult. Don’t agonize over it too much. Irresponsible people don’t deserve the rights they elect to abuse. Childless from here on out sounds like leniency to me.

  7. “And even if there were a precedent, it would be blatantly unconstitutional because it violates the United States Constitution and the New York Constitution.”

    Is there a provision in the constitution, either express or implied, that covers a right to bear children?

    I’m really not being a smartass…I’d like to know if anyone’s got the facts.

  8. madpad–

    Here are a couple of cites that cover the parent/child relationship and to a greater extent, the right to have children. Also don’t forget that the Constitution was written as a check on the government, not on individuals!

    The Court stressed, “the parent-child relationship is an important interest that undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection.” A parent’s interest in the companionship, care, custody and management of his or her children rises to a constitutionally secured right, given the centrality of family life as the focus for personal meaning and responsibility. Stanley v. Illinois, 405 US 645, 651; 92 S Ct 1208, (1972).

    ?? Parent’s rights have been recognized as being “essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free man.” Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 US 390; 43 S Ct 625, (1923).

    ?? The U.S. Supreme Court implied that “a (once) married father who is separated or divorced from a mother and is no longer living with his child” could not constitutionally be treated differently from a currently married father living with his child. Quilloin v. Walcott, 98 S Ct 549; 434 US 246, 255^Q56, (1978).

    ?? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (California) held that the parent-child relationship is a constitutionally protected liberty interest. (See; Declaration of Independence –life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution — No state can deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor deny any person the equal protection of the laws.) Kelson v. Springfield, 767 F 2d 651; US Ct App 9th Cir, (1985).

    ?? The parent-child relationship is a liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Bell v. City of Milwaukee, 746 f 2d 1205, 1242^Q45; US Ct App 7th Cir WI, (1985).

  9. This is a really convoluted situation, with no easy answers.

    One should be careful, however, to not set a dangerous precedence in a case that’s extremely rare.

    As an example, I have the right to pee, because it is a bio function. Even if I pee on cars from an overpass onto a freeway, I don’t forfeit the future right to pee. (Even though I’m invading other people?s rights.)

    I realize the analogy isn’t very precise, but the point here is that a person owns his/her bio functions. If you don’t own your own body, what do you own? How can you have any concept of private property if you don’t own what makes you a human?

    If someone is a nuisance and a burden to society, the government usually forces incarceration for the “greater good.” Mass murderers are usually put to death. If someone willfully invades others rights, they should be removed from society. But I don’t see this situation as willfully invading others rights. The couple in question seems to be highly lackadaisical.

    The problem isn’t that their reproduction is a burden to society, it’s that the government supports them in the first place. The punishment should be to remove them from all financial support. If they have to work hard enough to support their way in life, perhaps they’ll learn the value of their existence. Telling them they can’t reproduce removes any dignity they have left, and destroys the dignity of society as well.

    Forced sterilizations were done by the gov’t in the early to mid 20th century, and later decried as immoral. Judicial orders to not reproduce are only a degree of separation.

  10. H. Turn on the TV, wait for an anti-marijuana ad with screaming parents and do what they do.

  11. Just out of curiosity, what’s the mainstream libertarian solution to this?

    Presumably there would be no child-welfare agencies with coercive power. Would the burden be on the kids to bring a suit against their parents? Would the kids be able to sue their parents for starving and beating them or whatever across the board, or would parents be able to negotiate a contract with their kids under which such things are okay?

  12. Similar sort of case is going before the Ohio Supreme Court today. The guy has at least 6 kids by 5 women, and is more than $30,000 behind on child support.

    A judge ruled but didn’t explain that the guy was to make “all reasonable efforts” not to have more children.

  13. Calling all Capitalists-

    Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and offer to pay these people to get sterilized? If it’s SO IMPORTANT, pass the hat and end it.

    If a society based on the mutual swap of goods and services is the only ethical basis, then it would ethical.

    Instead, there’s the usual lurch-to-fascism libertarians do, wherein a state that shouldn’t infringe on YOUR rights is dandy when stepping on others.

  14. How is the state stepping on anyone’s rights here? Repeatedly having children and then making no effort to care for them, thus leaving them to die or as a burden on the state is equal to child abuse.
    These people shouldn’t be allowed to concieve again until they prove that they can get their act together. They could have put the kids up for adoption if they couldn’t have handled them. Are you people saying its ok if they keep concieving and then neglecting?

  15. Sir Real: Actually, several groups are doing just that for drug addicts and other groups of people at risk for having kids they can’t take care of. And the same people who are upset about this court ruling were up in arms about that program too, claiming that paying people to use long-term birth control was coercion. Moreover, the groups have been accused of promoting eugenics and racism because most of the people in the targeted groups (crack users and other drug addicts) were minorities. So it seems that those of us who don’t want to pay to raise other people’s children just can’t win.

    http://www.cashforbirthcontrol.com/

    http://www.realchangenews.org/pastissuesupgrade/2002_10_03/opinion/opinion.html

    http://www.aclu-sc.org/News/ExecutiveOpinion/100131/

  16. Derek,

    Thanks for the info.

    Purely a philosophical musing, but I’m interested that the pro-parent “it’s their constitutional right” side fail to consider in any way the right of the victims of their lack of interest – i.e. the state, the children, the community at large – who must bear the burden and pay the price.

    Where did we come in this society to presume that a constitutional right does not require an associated personal or communal responsibility?

    If I own a gun (which is my constitutional right), do I not also have a personal and communal responibility to reasonably make sure that kids can’t get to it?

    To paraphrase the supreme court, I have a constitutional right to free speech but a personal and communal responsibility not to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded movie house.

    Hasn’t our law, throughout history, demanded curtailment of a person’s rights when they are not responsible with them?

  17. When the mousepad is right, it is right!

  18. “Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and offer to pay these people to get sterilized?”

    Read the article…this has been offered to them. I doubt they will act on it though. That would be the responsible thing to do and thus far, they haven’t proved to be very responsible people.

  19. Well, I for one certainly am not totally in support of this ruling, no matter what Sir Real says. I can surely understand that these people in question are extraordinarily irresponsible. That they made what appears to be no effort to defend themselves is damning indeed.

    However, I’m still very unsure of the justifications used in this case, still combined with the lack of details. Again, it seems to come down to ‘well, EVERYONE can see they’re bad parents’. And while I’m not the biggest fan of ‘slippery-slope’ arguments, this does seem to be a situation where justifications like this could undergo a bit of ‘creep’. And I don’t think this goes anywhere near ‘rights’. Noone has a ‘right’ to conceive children. But does the state have the power to limit that freedom. Apparently in NY, they do now.

    This case really points out the problems when some in society simply will not live up to their responsibilities. What can the rest of us do about it? Would these people have been more likely to have fewer children or to take care of them if they knew there was no possibility of ‘help’ from the state? Would they have cared at all? Or are they just reprobates who should not be part of society? In that case, would jail time, or other punishment be more appropriate? All questions that should leave people who value personal liberty and responsibility conflicted.

  20. Wallis,

    My God…the heavens have shuddered, the lamb has lain down with the lion and the dawn of a new age has poked it’s gentle, orange fingers from over the far horizon…

    Wallis and I have actually agreed on something!

  21. Good post, Highway. It does seem that if they deserved to have their kids taken away from them, then they also deserved to be punished for the treatment that led to that. Perhaps the law was written the way it was because it was assumed that taking kids away was already a form of punishment? But of course, for some, it’s not. Point taken from others that when you infringe on others’ rights, you forfeit your own. But if we’re a nation of laws, we should have a systemized method of doing this that makes it clear what the punishment is for doing what.

  22. Highway,

    “All questions that should leave people who value personal liberty and responsibility conflicted”

    You make a good point, primarily because this is new territory for Americans. It is right to be a little uncomfortable about this.

    Still, the state is stuck with their kids, public defenders are stuck defending them, rights advocates who see the handwriting on the wall are stuck dealing with the constitutional issues.

    In every way shape and form, these two have left others holding the bag for them…AND THEY JUST DON’T CARE.

    They almost make my point for me.

  23. A cousin of mine has at least 5 or 6 kids by as many women. He molested one of them and only served a couple years in prison before being released. (Don’t ask me how he got such a short sentence, there was probably a plea bargain involved.) Now he’s out, and he’s whining about how much of his paycheck goes to pay for child support.

    I’ve offered to castrate him with a dull rusty knife but there’s a good chance that one of my relatives would feel sorry for him and call the cops on me. And by Murphy’s Law, I’d be the one doing a 15 year mandatory minimum sentence or whatever, while he’s free after doing a few years for sexual assault of a minor.

    Needless to say, I’m a firm believer in the notion that some people shouldn’t have kids. And in case anybody wants to accuse me of racism here (the inevitable charge levied at people who offer to pay for castrations), my cousin is 100% white, as are most of his girlfriends. Oh, most of his girlfriends should also be sterilized. I’d gladly pay for the surgeon to tie their tubes.

  24. I think this is what the inkblot is for Judge Bork.

    I was also confused at why these parents never went to jail for child abuse/endagerment. It would kill two birds with one stone (punishment for abuse of their children and she can’t get pregnant in a unisex prison). I’m wary of forced sterilization and preventing people from reproducing even though some people do need to be prevented (as always, the implementation of this scares me than the status quo). I do like the private orgs paying for it though.

  25. Maybe we’ve reached a point in this society where we need to license this sort of thing.

    I can imagine the test at a DMV-type office…

    Question 17. Which of the following should NOT be placed over or around a baby’s head.

    A. A plastic bag
    B. A hungry pit bull
    C. A running chainsaw
    D. All of the above

    Question 34. You find marijuana in your teenager’s room. Should you:

    A. Ask him/her if it’s “really good shit”
    B. Beat them severely, risking injury to
    the point of death.
    C. Schedule some time to “talk about this”
    D. Call the police.

  26. E. Ask him if he’s a Libertarian

  27. F. Confiscate it and then smoke it with your old college buddies.

  28. G. Find out the street value and sell it if it’s really good stuff and you have a balance on your credit card.

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