Reading Time: 4 minutes Chris Pirillo, flickr
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In reading the brilliant book The Anatomy of Violence by Adrian Raine, the subject of licensing parenting is brought up near the end. It’s a good old debating topic that often provokes strong opinions. Some claim that giving birth is a fundamental human right and everyone is entitled to it.

Of course, this is not so obvious:

  1. What are human rights and in what way do they exist? You see, human rights are abstract objects, and, as a conceptual nominalist, I would argue that they only exist in the human mind. Thus, in any real sense, human rights only exist in a mind independent manner when codified into a law or laws. And these will vary throughout the world. So, really, human rights are simply moral codes derived from moral philosophy, and the application of logical argument. Not only are human rights not ontically real, but if you argue that they conceptually or even objectively exist, there is a lot of work to be done in asserting which ones are valid, and which ones aren’t.
  2. Things get complicated when vying for rights. Let’s imagine I live in a community where all resources are allocated – there is no spare capacity for any more humans. Surely I could argue that your right to give birth to a child impinges on my right (or my already existing children’s rights) to life (clean water, food etc.)? What about when there are spare resources? Your child still takes away resources form my family. Rights are tricky.
  3. Nature already denies many people the ability to have children. How does this interact with the notion of human rights?
  4. We already strictly regulate parenting in the fostering and adoption spheres. So for those people in (3) who cannot have children (or choose adoption), we make them jump through hoops to actually parent. This is the adoption assessment section from the UK government website:

3. Adoption assessment

Once the agency gets your application it will do the following:

  1. Invite you to a series of preparation classes – these are normally held locally and give advice on the effect adoption may have on you.
  2. Arrange for a social worker to visit you on several occasions to carry out an assessment – this is to check you’re suitable to become an adoptive parent.
  3. Arrange a police check – you will not be allowed to adopt if you, or an 
adult member of your family, have been convicted of a serious offence, eg 
against a child.
  4. Ask you to provide the names of 3 referees who will give you a personal reference. One of your referees can be a relative.
  5. Arrange for you to have a full medical examination.

Your assessment

The social worker will send the assessment report to an independent adoption panel. This is a group of people who are experienced in adoption.

The panel will make a recommendation to the adoption agency based on your assessment.

You can go along to ask questions and answer any questions the panel has.

The adoption panel will send their recommendation to the agency, which will then decide whether you’re suitable to adopt a child.

If you can adopt a child

Once your agency decides you can adopt, they’ll begin the process of finding a child for you to adopt.

Your agency will refer you to either the:

They’ll do this immediately or 3 months after you’ve been approved to adopt if they’re not actively considering a local match with a child.

The registers hold details of children across England and Wales who need adopting.

Let me dwell on this fourth point a little. There are strict guidelines, and regulatory structures and processes in place to ensure that the child gets the best, most secure parenting they can, or at least a high minimum requirement. This appears to be a rather obvious example of double standards, certainly if one agrees to this practice, and yet argues that regular childbirth and parenting should be an unregulated human right.

We know that the biosocial jigsaw, as Raine would say, is a complex interaction of genes, biology and environment. The adoption process tries to mitigate the known risk factors through regulation (read licensing). This, then, lessens the damage done to children that, in turn, lessens the damage and cost to society.

Now, I am not saying we should license parenting here, per se. But I am questioning whether it is not a bad idea, especially since we already do this to people who are unfortunate enough not to be able to have children, or who want to help others, and choose or have to go through the adoption process in order to have children.

For more information on the massive array of damage you can do to children in the long and short term, please read Raine’s excellent book. Chris Pirillo, flickr Chris Pirillo, flickr

Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...