The Journal of Medical Ethics recently released a formal paper in which they argued that parents should lose their rights to care for their children. The paper referenced an article by Dr. Lauren Notini showing a supposed benefit in treating minors with so-called gender-affirming surgeries.
To be clear, “gender-affirming surgeries” is a nomenclature for surgery that actually is gender-denying, in which a surgery performed changes the body in a mutilating and permanent way. To cut through the terminology, what’s being said is that there is a benefit to allowing a thirteen-year-old the right to determine if she should have a mastectomy in order to affirm her inner self. Yes, you heard that right. Thirteen-year-old girls in the United States of America are actually going through surgeries to remove healthy breasts. The discussion is whether parents should have the right to interfere.
The Journal of Medical Ethics argues that parents should not have the right to interfere, that they should not be able to guide their children in any way other than full affirmation, that they shouldn’t even be allowed into the conversation, that doctors should be free to treat minors without parental consent and parental influence.
So, what is the actual role and right of parents in light of these developing so-called “rights of children”? My friend Katy Faust recently tackled this question in a What Would You Say? video: Do Children’s Rights Override Parental Rights? Below is an edited transcript of Katy’s talk:
You’re in a conversation and someone says, “We have to respect the rights of children. No-one, not even their parents should be allowed to interfere with their sexual autonomy.” Children’s rights are absolutely crucial. But does that mean parents shouldn’t be able to direct their children’s education and medical care? No.
Many people have only heard the term “children’s rights” misused. It’s no wonder when top-tier U.N. agencies including UNICEF and the W.H.O. use the phrase to primarily promote the sexual rights of children. For example, some professionals argue that children have a right to harmful transgender treatments, even if their parents don’t agree. But just because the term “children’s rights” has been misused doesn’t negate the reality that children have natural rights. Natural rights spring from our nature as human beings; what we need as a human person; and what we owe other humans, which can be called justice. Natural rights exist independent of custom or legal convention. When we apply that natural law framework, we see that indeed children have rights. It’s helpful to apply the three rules that confirm a rights test to determine whether this “right” shares the three qualities to which all rights conform.
First, a natural right is pre-government. Second, no-one has to provide a natural right. Third, a natural right is distributed equally. In natural law theory, rights correspond to duties and obligations. Parents have a natural moral duty or obligation to care for the children that they create. Because caring for children requires making decisions on their behalf, even at times when they disagree, parental authority flows from parental obligations. Parental rights protect that authority, enabling parents to fulfill their obligations in line with the dictates of their consciences.
To see Katy Faust’s full talk on children’s rights and parents’ rights on the recent What Would You Say? video, go to whatwouldyousay.org or visit breakpoint.org.
Katy Faust | What Would You Say? | July, 2021
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