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Minors: Rights And Children

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As I argued in posts 11, 46 and 61, I see no justification for the notion that the nature of an adult is a relevant and compelling reason to define that being's rights, but the nature of an infant is not.

I have two questions:

1) But rights are generally delineated in terms of what others must not do toward me, instead of what they must do to me.

If I were paralyzed from the neck down, or in some manner totally dependent, would the nature of my existence as a rational dependent prescribe the nature of my rights?

2) If prevention of the initiation of force is the basis for legal action, how does one argue that conceiving and abandoning (without choosing guardianship) is an initiation of force?

That said, I think there is a strong argument behind the idea that if a woman has carried a child 9 months and chosen NOT to abort it during that time, that she has chosen to have the child, and that she has accepted the responsibilities and obligations that come with bringing a helpless rational human being into the world.

But a woman might choose to birth, but explicitly choose not to provide guardianship. She might want to know how the process feels... or not want invasive abortion procedures. If she chooses the birth, but not the providing of guardianship, is there some argument that choosing to birth should create legal obligations, whether the mother agrees or not?

What would be the legal argument against some woman who says "I choose to undergo my pregnancy to term... but I do not choose to find guardianship for the child-to-be-born?"

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If I were paralyzed from the neck down, or in some manner totally dependent, would the nature of my existence as a rational dependent prescribe the nature of my rights?

If you are saying that the child has the right to material support from the parents, and only from the parents, because they, and only they, chose to have the child, then we are in agreement.

Hunterrose, I believe he has already answered the question you are asking.

Edited by Inspector
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I have split the discussion about what should and should not be allowed on the forum into a thread of its own (link). If anyone wishes to continue that discussion and make suggestions about forum rules, please do so there.

Having done that, I'm re-opening this thread, because it seems there is still interest in discussing the issue.

I think it would be helpful if someone (from either "side" of the argument) could summarize: this is where the two sides agree, and this is the crux of the disagreement. Also, the discussion about morality and legality have been intertwined in a way that has made the arguments less easy to follow.

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Moderator's note: Some readers have expressed disgust at this post and have questioned if it even belongs on the forum. Subsequent posts show that this post has not remained unchallenged by other members.

If this makes Jennifer Snow a monster, then I am an even bigger monster.

I think that if the parents are dissatisfied with their child, e.g. if it has a birth defect, then they may ethically abandon it to die and have another child instead.

I just want to say I agree with this post 100% and that in general I hate jrs and detest his views on metaphysics and his general intention on this forum.

Why should a person not be able to abandon a thing that has NO VALUE to him?

That said, I would personally detest a person who finds no value in his own child, but if he does not, under what objective moral principal can a government loot his hard-earned money for something he DOES NOT VALUE?

Edited by EC
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EC, isn't there a crucial difference between simply abandoning a child, which may well result in his/her death, and puting an imperfect child in foster care or up for adoption? I can understand that some people may not be capable of raising a special needs child and therefore would choose to put that child up for adoption. However, to simply abandon the child is morally repugnant.

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Why should a person not be able to abandon a thing that has NO VALUE to him?

That said, I would personally detest a person who finds no value in his own child, but if he does not, under what objective moral principal can a government loot his hard-earned money for something he DOES NOT VALUE?

I have already answered why this it is wrong for a parent to abandon his child. Click here.

So far, that post goes unchallenged.

Like gags said, it is perfectly ok for a parent to put his child up for adoption if the child is "imperfect." I'd go even farther and say that it's ok for a parent to put his child up for adoption for any reason whatsoever. The point is that a parent has entered into an implicit agreement that he will ensure the child is taken care of. This agreement can be fulfilled by transferring it to another willing party.

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That said, I would personally detest a person who finds no value in his own child, but if he does not, under what objective moral principal can a government loot his hard-earned money for something he DOES NOT VALUE?

Let me give an example:

Suppose a man bought a car. Since he's an irresponsible man, he doesn't buy one that he likes. He ends up hating the car. He "DOES NOT VALUE" it. Can he simply stop making payments for it, on those grounds?

No, of course not.

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Hunterrose, I believe he has already answered the question you are asking.

Not totally. This

the child has the right to material support from the parents, because they, and only they, chose to have the child.

doesn't seem to mesh with this

"Rights are conditions of existence required by man's nature for his proper survival." (Lexicon. pg 213) Why, then, is it proper to define those "conditions of existence" for adults, but improper to define them for children? - (emphasis Hunter's)

If rights are conditions of existence, then the infant's rights are dependent solely on his conditions of existence - and not on the mother.

AisA's quote seemed to say why parents must provide support, not why any adult dependent isn't deserving the same rights based on his virtually identical conditions of existence.

I have already answered why this it is wrong for a parent to abandon his child. Click here.

So far, that post goes unchallenged.

This isn't because a child has more rights than anyone else, it's because the mother is the one who put the child in the position of needing any support at all. If a woman knows that a child will not be taken care of, and gives birth anyway, then it is tantamount to murder. Because of this, if she has a child and does not make arrangements for someone else to be the caretaker, she is doing one of two things: intending to commit murder by abandonment, or implicitly agreeing to be the child's caretaker.

A parent has a chosen obligation (even if they don't recognize the choice, it's implicit) to be the caretaker of his/her child.

*hunter challenges post* :)

You make what appears to be a false dilemma in saying choosing to birth a child means the mother is either intending murder or choosing to provide the child care.

Is a mother at fault for creating a child in a defenseless state?

One question I posed a while back was: how can a person "implicitly agree" to do something if she's explicitly chosen not to do it? If a person doesn't recognize a choice, have they really chosen?

I think it would be helpful if someone (from either "side" of the argument) could summarize: this is where the two sides agree, and this is the crux of the disagreement. Also, the discussion about morality and legality have been intertwined in a way that has made the arguments less easy to follow.

Sounds good to me.

As far as agreements go, I agree that abandoning a child is morally bad in virtually all cases. I also agree that IF a person's explicitly chosen guardianship, then they have obligations toward their charge.

The crux of the disagreement as I see it is 1)the claim that a mother's chosen, even if she hasn't explicitly, the responsibility of guardianship in choosing to birth the child and 2)an infant has the right to have guardianship provided by the mother.

The legal question seems more worthwhile to discuss than the moral question, particularly as it's generally agreed that non-guardians don't have any obligation to act in the child's interests.

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You make what appears to be a false dilemma in saying choosing to birth a child means the mother is either intending murder or choosing to provide the child care.

That's exactly what I'm saying, although I don't regard it as a "false dilemma." I demonstrated that giving birth to a child with the intention of abandoning it is tantamount to murder. The only alternative to this is giving birth with the intention of finding someone to care for it. Is there some third alternative of which I am unaware?

Is a mother at fault for creating a child in a defenseless state?
If "at fault" means "responsible for," then yes (exempting cases of rape). I don't like using the words "at fault" because it implies that some damage is done to the child by creating in. The only case in which damage is done to a child through the act of creating him is when the parents refuse to ensure that he is cared for.

One question I posed a while back was: how can a person "implicitly agree" to do something if she's explicitly chosen not to do it? If a person doesn't recognize a choice, have they really chosen?

Sounds good to me.

We engage in tons of implicit agreements every day of our lives. When you choose to live in a particular country, you are implicitly agreeing to abide by the laws of that country. When you enter someone's house, you are implicitly agreeing to abide by the rules of their house. When I ask someone out on a date, I'm implicitly (well, I guess in my case, it's explicit since I recognize it) agreeing to pick up the tab.

As far as agreements go, I agree that abandoning a child is morally bad in virtually all cases. I also agree that IF a person's explicitly chosen guardianship, then they have obligations toward their charge.

What circumstances do you think make it ok for a parent to abandon his child?

The legal question seems more worthwhile to discuss than the moral question, particularly as it's generally agreed that non-guardians don't have any obligation to act in the child's interests.

All legal questions rest on the answer to some moral question, so I'm not sure how you'd intend to discuss the legal issue until this one is settled.

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she is doing one of two things: intending to commit murder by abandonment, or implicitly agreeing to be the child's caretaker. [bold mine]

This would be true if say you left a small child or infant out in the woods, etc., and I would fully agree. But what if you left the child in an area where you knew the child would be found. Then this would not be intent to murder, which should be illegal, but simple abandonment. And while that may still be morally repugnant to most people, myself included, it should NOT be illegal.

In fact it is legal here in Michigan assuming you drop the child at certain approved places such as hospitals.

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Let me give an example:

Suppose a man bought a car. Since he's an irresponsible man, he doesn't buy one that he likes. He ends up hating the car. He "DOES NOT VALUE" it. Can he simply stop making payments for it, on those grounds?

No, of course not.

The difference here is when the man bought the car he entered into an explicit, legal contract; while having a child implies no contract whatsoever. If it did how would this work? Ex. "Yeah, I hit this hot ass chick last night but I was so drunk I didn't use protection. Damn, I guess my not using protection is the same as signing a binding legal document." See how silly that sounds?

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Why should a person not be able to abandon a thing that has NO VALUE to him?

Do you really see NO difference between abandoning a THING and abandoning a human child for which you (generically, not you specifically) are responsible for creating?

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Akin to softwareNerd's suggestion, I'm going to summarize my position.

First, I would like to note a portion of my position that I am abandoning (with no pun intended). After some thought and some reading, I will not continue to maintain the position that a child has any additional rights beyond that of any other human being.

What I do maintain is that the ACT of carrying a child to birth is evidence that (at the very least) the mother has chosen an obligation to either care for the child and act as the guardian for the child's rights, or find someone who will accept those responsibilities. I acknowledge that there may be specific contexts which provide exceptions to this position.

I do not agree with the idea that accepting responsibility for chosen obligations consists of merely having to suffer whatever consequences one can't avoid.

Rather, accepting responsibility for one's chosen obligations means scrupulously honoring the obligations and responsibilities attached to those choices. I think this is the virtuous and moral path.

I still maintain that abandonment of the child up until the child is at least minimally self-sustaining (or maybe even to the point where the child SHOULD be minimally self-sustaining) can constitute a criminal act. I acknowledge this to be a broad generalization subject to alot of context and legal evaluation, which could sometimes mean the abandonment would not necessarily be criminal.

As yet, I do not accept that any compelling argument has been given to demonstrate that these views can be characterized in any of the following ways; immoral, irrational, unethical or inconsistent with the philosophy of Objectivism.

I think the primary disagreements between my position and those of my opposition rests on whether or not birth constitutes a chosen obligation, and what it means to accept responsibility for those chosen obligations.

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EC, If you're using "abandonment" to mean the act of giving up something, then adoption would be a form of abandonment, and nobody is arguing if it might sometimes be moral/legal to give up a child for adoption. On the other hand, if you're using "abandonment" to mean giving up something, without any care about what happens to it, then there's definitely a difference between adoption and leaving a child in the woods (as you have correctly pointed out).

With that background, Michigan's law is really a form of extremely anonymous adoption.

As for the your question:

...under what objective moral principal can a government loot his hard-earned money for something he DOES NOT VALUE
People have already answered this by saying that a parent has a certain responsibility to a child because they -- the parent -- created the child. If one accepts that the parent has such a legal responsibility, then the government would not looting, any more than it would be looting to force a creditor to repay a debt.
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That's exactly what I'm saying, although I don't regard it as a "false dilemma." I demonstrated that giving birth to a child with the intention of abandoning it is tantamount to murder. The only alternative to this is giving birth with the intention of finding someone to care for it. Is there some third alternative of which I am unaware?

If "at fault" means "responsible for," then yes (exempting cases of rape). I don't like using the words "at fault" because it implies that some damage is done to the child by creating in. The only case in which damage is done to a child through the act of creating him is when the parents refuse to ensure that he is cared for.

The false dilemma part is that you say either she chooses to be the caretaker or she intends to murder. Abandoning is far different from murder. You might be able to argue abandonment would be homicidal neglect or something, but even that presupposes the mother has an obligation at birth to provide for the child.

These first two quotes seem to assume that the mother has an obligation to the child simply from refusing or being unable to have an abortion. Why does being the child's creator obligate the creator?

We engage in tons of implicit agreements every day of our lives. When you choose to live in a particular country, you are implicitly agreeing to abide by the laws of that country. When you enter someone's house, you are implicitly agreeing to abide by the rules of their house.
True, but these things are respectively based (or should be) on non-interference with others, private property, and a popular social (but far from legal) standard.

Since we are speaking about what should be legal, the laws of a country are based on not initiating force against another. Obligatory care, OTOH, is based on a requirement to initiate actions on the behalf of another. I don't see how to turn one into the other.

The idea of legal action here would be an example of the government entering someone's house qua body. It essentially says "You're pregnant? Then we give you two choices - either find the means to have an invasive abortion, or legally agree to provide to a minimal level for the child." And here the ideal government doesn't give a reason for this unprecedented obligation to care for another if one doesn't get an invasive abortion.

I have no problem with implicit agreements in and of themselves, but in each instance the rationale behind them seems different from that of implicit agreements to care for another.

What circumstances do you think make it ok for a parent to abandon his child?

All legal questions rest on the answer to some moral question, so I'm not sure how you'd intend to discuss the legal issue until this one is settled.

Morally ok? Emergencies, I suppose. My stance on the moral situation is a bit murkier than the legal question.

I'd agree that illegal actions all (should) have an immoral status. All (ideal) illegal things are immoral... but all immoral things aren't illegal. Lying, for instance.

We might agree that acting with one's own body in such a way that a being is created and having no intention of providing for it is immoral. But unless one shows abandonment at birth to be immoral on the grounds of initiating of force, I don't see the reason to confer illegality on the basis of any other (not initiation of force) immorality.

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...unless one shows abandonment at birth to be immoral on the grounds of initiating of force, I don't see the reason to confer illegality on the basis of any other (not initiation of force) immorality.
And, HunterRose, do you see abandonment as a type of force?
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Without an agreement to provide guardianship, I'd say no. But with an agreement (and in the light of someone else being willing to provide care,) I'd say yes.
I'm not sure why you speak of an agreement. To clarify: are you implying that if one breaks a deal with an adult, then that is a type of force?
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The difference here is when the man bought the car he entered into an explicit, legal contract; while having a child implies no contract whatsoever.

As I have said, my position is that there IS a legal relationship between parent and child just the same as between buyer and seller. The point of my post was to prove that just because something is of "NO VALUE" to someone, that they can simply abandon responsibility for it. Clearly, this is not the case.

If you disagree with the idea that a legal parent/child relationship exists, then argue that. It is pointless to say, by itself, whether something is or is not of value to a person, as an argument for pro-abandonment.

THAT is my point and I consider it QED.

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Example:

Two sons A and B both desire to take to but can't agree on who should be allowed to care for their invalid father. They go to court, and a judge rules that son A can take care of his father... on the condition that if A decides not to continue supporting his father, he transfer guardianship over to B.

In this case, I would say that A abandoning his father would be a type of force via fraud.

IF a person has chosen guardianship (knowing someone else is ready to care for the dependent, taking care of the dependent instead of allowing the other party to provide care,) then yes, I would see abandonment as a type of force.

But if a person's never chosen guardianship (as used above,) then I do not see it as force - and thus I don't see it as ideally illegal.

I take choosing guardianship as a legally binding agreement, and don't mind if certain parts of that agreement are implicit.

I am not implying that breaking a deal with an adult (in general) would be a type of force, though.

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So, HunterRose, are you saying the following:

  • that if one chooses guardianship, one is morally obliged to abide with one's choice

  • that becoming a parent does not imply that one is choosing guardianship

Is that what you're saying?

If by "becoming a parent" you mean "birthing a child," then that sounds accurate.

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