You start to sweat, your hands are slippery and you almost feel nauseous. You know what is coming, at least theoretically. Maybe you have a partner or maybe you are a single parent, but regardless this ordeal is one you will go through alone.
Your knees are weak and it feels like your insides are being wrung out like a dishtowel, your hips are being pulled apart and your insides are being tugged out. You have no privacy, nothing to cover yourself with, you are exposed and in so much pain you cannot think straight.
Near the end of this ordeal, you feel a burning pain so acute you think you will never forget it. At the end of it all, you hold what can only be described as a sausage looking thing wrapped up in hospital blankets and a small hat, and look out the window into the world with new eyes. Your life will never be the same.
Do you and everyone around you have the right to this experience? When I say this experience, I do not mean childbirth (do not feel excluded if you do not have a uterus), I mean parenthood.
In other words, are you entitled to parenthood? The question is simple on its face, but just take a moment and try to answer it and you will find that it is incredibly multifaceted. What is parenthood? What purpose does this right have? And, if it is in fact a right, in what ways can it be protected, if at all?
To start, the right to parenthood must be separated from the right to life, at least for the purposes of this article. While the two come hand in hand, the right to have a child is categorically different from that child’s right to exist. The former focuses on the parents while the latter on the offspring.
The right to parenthood may seem like something that is unconsented and therefore immaterial, especially in a country where there are no visible forced-abortion advocates. But, the assumption that no U.S. citizen’s right to parenthood has ever been challenged is unequivocally privileged.
Historically, the right to conceive and the right to raise children has been challenged for individuals living in poverty, of minority status or of different abilities. Buck v. Bell certainly shows us that. The use of chemical castration as punishment is likewise another push against the ingrained right to conception.
To begin, we must distinguish between a right to conceive and a right to raise children.
Parenthood, for the purposes of this article, is a two-step process. First, you procure the child (either by adoption or conception), and then you raise that child. The right to conception, for the purposes of this article, will be defined as the right to create a fetus and carry a pregnancy to term. The right to parenthood will be defined as the right to raise a child until adulthood.
Let us first discuss the right to conception. While there is plenty of literature on the right of the conceived, mostly from the Right wing, very little has been written on the right to conceive.
An article by Dr. Christopher Belshaw discusses the nuance of deciding who has the right to conceive but never quite touches upon why that right exists. It is almost a given that you and I have the right to create a person (pardon the double entendre).
But what can such a right offer us? The ability to pass down genetic material? The ability to exercise a normal bodily function? It may seem that the purpose of a right to conception is rather abstract and therefore its defense becomes a bit difficult. But then again, none of our first 10 amendments serve a concrete purpose, at least not in terms of protecting the basic human needs like food, shelter, sleep and clean water.
The purpose of freedom of speech can and is hotly debated (ironically so), but the purpose of food is more or less an open and shut case. Returning to our original question, perhaps it needs no answer. If we collectively decide that everyone has a right to conceive, then it is a societally protected right. Let us take that a step further, and put the right to conceive in the constitution, the 28th Amendment.
So now, let us examine the consequences of our legal decision. If the right to conception is constitutionally protected then is the state obligated to aid those with difficulty in conceiving or who are barren? I would venture to say no: The Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms but does not hand out rifles. Another question to consider is the legal viability of chemical castration?
The 15th Amendment guarantees the right to vote, but that right disappears in the jails of some states. Can the right to conceive similarly disappear and if so for who? Currently, sexual predators can lose their right to procreate in a few states in the U.S. This opens the door to limiting the right to conceive even further, which can prove disastrous. Eugenics and the United States have a dirty history.
This new 28th Amendment, though, does not cover the right to keep those children, and such a right seems much less ingrained in our society. There are rather high approval ratings of the child protective services system in the United States, according to a study from Research!America.
Likewise, people are much more likely to agree that children should be taken away from an abusive parent than they are to say that the parent should be chemically castrated.
Perhaps, this disparity can be explained by the permanency of sterilization and two, rather sappy albeit heartfelt beliefs: people change, bad parents can become good parents and everyone should have a chance to redeem themselves through their children.
Alice Militaru is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in economics. Her column, “Opinions No One Asked For,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.
*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.
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