Should there be a law that prospective parents, particularly women, be required to obtain a license before their first pregnancy? Or for each pregnancy after that, assuming a couple wants more than one child? As a parent who has read far too many news articles about children dying unnecessarily from parental abuse or negligence, the idea is very tempting. It certainly might have saved many infants and children from dying from the abuse or neglect of cruel or simply inadequate moms or dads. The issue of whether parenting licenses should be required before a couple can conceive is becoming more of a heated topic for debate, with strong opinions from those who support such a measure and of course from those who reject it. The question of course, is which side will prevail in the long run.
Jerry Steinberg, founder of the childfree singles club NO KIDDING! makes some good points in favor of adopting a "license to parent" law. "I am convinced that there should be a ‘License To Parent.' Courses and tests (both theoretical and practical), created by and given by experienced and successful parents, teachers, nurses, daycare workers, doctors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, family counselors, police officers, etc. would have to be taken, with at least 80% needed to pass in order to receive your License To Parent (could you justify any less?). Such courses should be mandatory in every high school in the country."
Naturally, opponents of adopting this law have strong arguments too, such as how such a law could be enforced effectively in a free society. Personally, I don't see how this could be done, and that is the main problem I have with this type of law. As Steinberg suggested, we could create courses to take and tests to pass, and make them a requirement for every high school student. Then what? Do we make it a condition that in order to advance to the next grade or to graduate high school, students must pass this course? If a student fails the Parenting Licence course, do we monitor his or her movements on a 24-hour basis to make sure this person isn't having sex and possibly procreating? If he is, what do we do then? Arrest him, or merely give him a ticket for having sex without a license? Either way, it's violating the basic right that people in this country have to procreate. It also violates the basic constitutional law for the right of the pursuit of happiness in a free society.
Is any kind of compromise or middle ground possible? Certainly, if both sides would be willing to give a little. It wouldn't be the perfect solution, but it could give the pro and con sides something, and it could still raise red flags for some people that parenting might not be the best option, either for the time being or not at all. A simple parental aptitude test, given at various locations, including high schools, colleges, OB/Gyn doctors' offices, and women's choice clinics, might be a thoughtful option for young people who may otherwise go into parenthood for the wrong reasons. Such a test would be voluntary, not required. However, enough young men and women might be strongly motivated to take such a test, which could point out some deficiencies in their views about parenting and give them cause to reconsider, at least temporarily.
No one wants to see more children die at the hands of negligent or abusive parents than we've seen already in some of the more recent news stories. And some of these past stories have been horrific indeed. Could a parenting license requirement have prevented some or all of these terrible deaths from happening? Maybe. And then again, maybe not. Like it or not, there are no guarantees that people aren't going to snap in the future and do things they
never would have conceived of doing beforehand. A high school senior can get a license to drive at sixteen years of age, and decide to drive under the influence and get himself and others killed two years later. A doctor could go through medical school and pass the licensing requirements for practicing medicine in his state, and a few years later, could make a critical mistake that results in a patient's unnecessary death. When you get down to the bottom line, taking required courses and written exams is no guarantee against future human error. Or in far too many cases, simple human stupidity, carelessness, even criminal behavior.
As tempting as the proposed "license to parent" requirement is, my gut feeling is that it would be the proverbial "slippery slope." If we pass a law that restricts the right of all people to procreate, we open the door to all kinds of unwanted government intrusions into our private lives. The system we have now to protect children isn't perfect, and many areas could stand a great deal of improvement. Child Protective Services case workers are often burned out, and many of them have made mistakes that have cost children their lives because they left kids in dangerous, and ultimately fatal, home environments. But flawed as it may be, it's still the only system we have, and the only remedy we have is to come up with new ways to make it better. Passing a law that may put unnecessary restrictions on people that have committed no crime is ill-advised at best and grossly intrusive at worst. Don't we want to keep the U.S. government out of our bedrooms as much as humanly possible? I know I do.