Parents and Responsibility

Parents and Responsibility

The ease and reliability of the pill accelerated the uncoupling of sex from reproduction and therefore detached it to a great extent from responsibility. This was Libby Purves on December 6th, 2021 in The Times.

We were all been horrified at the fate of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ death at the hands of his father and step-mother. At the same time we may have noticed a case brought successfully by Evie Toombes, a woman who suffers from spina-bifida, against the GP whose advice to her then pregnant mother did not alert her to the possibility that her baby might be born with a major disability.

Just as we respect the rights of adults to bring children into the world, should we not expect prospective parents, and those who advise them, to put first the interests of children yet unborn?

It could be said that by making Arthur’s mother pregnant his father had inflicted upon him a woman who proved to be completely unacceptable as a parent and had then delivered him into the hands of a step-mother who was also totally unsuitable as a parent. Three adults turned a child, vulnerable and dependent, into a victim, tortured and killed by the very people who take upon themselves responsibility for a child, a right that we are reluctant to challenge and which is difficult to challenge.

With the success of Evie Toombes’ case against her mother’s GP, there may now be established more clearly a liability for a child’s welfare pre-conception, in this case, on the part of an advisor to a parent, rather than the part of a parent to be. With the demise of marriage as a bond between two adults, should we substitute a parenting contract between a child’s parents which would emphasise each parent’s commitment to support the other parent as part of their joint commitment to the child?

How might we then come to react to the birth of a child following a pregnancy where the parents to be are clearly not supporting one another to prepare a secure and stable home? How might we react when one parent, or perhaps both have allowed the pregnancy to come about without considering the suitability of the other as a parent, without, that is, putting first the interests of the child? It would seem that, as things stand, it is not until harm has been suffered by a child that such concerns are raised.

People who wish to adopt or foster a child are required to show their capacity to become effective parents. When a child is born, could we not ask whether the parents are honouring their parent contract and, if this is not the case, should we not put first the interests of the child and see that suitable adoptive or foster parents are found and not wait until the child is harmed or worse?