If you’re shocked by the title of this article or have some preconceived notion about what it contains, do not pre-judge me or the article: read it the whole way through.
A growing number of individuals are beginning to think it’s time to require that people get a license before having children. If the idea sounds absurd or highly impractical to you, I can empathize, as I once felt the same way.
If there were but one or two sound reasons why a license for bringing a child into the world is a good idea, perhaps we could let the issue rest for another decade or so. Actually, there are dozens of compelling reasons, the top half-dozen outlined here, for our society to organize itself in a way it never has before and in a manner that was perhaps unthinkable a generation ago.
Not Everyone Will
Before turning to the six big reasons for requiring a license to have children, let’s skip ahead to a time in which it is the law of the land.
As with licensing in other aspects of society, such as driving, not everyone who is supposed to get a license does so. Some people simply drive without one. Presumably, they proceed until they are caught for a traffic violation. ome people drive after their license has been suspended. Similarly, people will have children without the slightest regard for getting a license. As we’ll discuss, there are still compelling reasons for proceeding with the process.
Regardless of whether prospective child-rearing adults were to file for licenses, some people would always argue that requiring a license smacks of Big Brotherism.
“Haven’t people always conceived babies without a license?”
“Why do we need to impose this now?”
“Isn’t this one more bit of burdensome government regulation?”
“Isn’t this unconstitutional?”
“What agency will administer and oversee the process?”
“Will we be creating greater bureaucracy?”
“Why should the government get so involved in my private life?”
These points are worth considering; cause for alarm, however, is premature. There need not be one iota of Big Brotherism in the process. Licensing procedures don’t have to be designed so as to exclude anyone. Racism, favoritism, or any other “ism” need not gain any foothold here. No one plays God and decides who has children and who doesn’t. Rather, licensing, as argued here, would be available to anyone who applies. It could be as simple as registering to vote and the costs would be minimal if piggybacked on to an agency that already administers licenses.
Considering that many people will not seek to obtain the license, and that licensing itself will not be denied to anyone, why bother to have it at all? I’m glad you raised the question.
1. Greater Lead Time
We are a nation where too many babies are born out of wedlock. Among African Americans, the figure is nearly 70%; among Native Americans, above 55%; among Hispanics, 52%; and among whites, 28%. In recent decades, we’ve witnessed dramatic increases in the numbers of teenage pregnancies, single mothers, abandoned or abused children, and even children murdered by their own parents.
Will licensing childbirth save even one child? Easily.
With the nine month average term of pregnancy, and nearly every mother able to determine if she’s pregnant at least seven months before term, the licensing process has a seven month lead time. Thus, each state or local jurisdiction’s social support and family services, as well as other community services, would have a greater capacity for population planning and dispensing of care, counseling, and other services. Pediatrics divisions of hospitals could plan more soundly to meet the needs of the surrounding community. So, too, could those who dispense critical services, such as birthing classes, educational videos, and counseling.
In short, licensing would increase the probability that more newborns have happy, successful early childhoods.
2. Restoring Sanctity to Birth
Licensing holds notable potential for restoring some semblance of sanctity to the birth process. Some parents seem to not realize that having a child is not something you do on a lark to get out of school, to cure boredom, or to better secure the affections of a partner. When the sanctity of childbirth across the broad swath of humanity is someday restored, the number of out-of-wedlock births will decline. Licensing is a means towards this end.
Ideally, a child comes into the world because a husband and wife are in love and wish to have a family. They give the matter careful consideration. They are cognizant of the need for years of endless sacrifices and financial outlays. Gary Becker, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago, was awarded the Nobel Prize for demonstrating that higher-income, educated married couples intentionally have fewer children than average so as to optimize the nurturing, education, and upbringing of each child.
The most successful and wisest parents among us actively choose to limit the size of their families.
Why should a society deign to offer indicators to anyone that bringing more children into the world, even one child, for whom you cannot adequately provide care, is socially acceptable or even tolerable? I wouldn’t even vaguely suggest that anyone be denied the opportunity to have children, even many children, independent of their educational, financial, or marital status. I am strongly against any notion of one person or group of people deciding who shall have children, how many, and who shall not. Rather, I argue for the maintenance of social standards which licensing would aid.
Having a license to bring a child into the world might help to sanctify both human birth experience and the ensuing human life experience. Currently, both pro-choice and pro-life advocacy groups need to re-examine and perhaps re-formulate their views regarding the sanctity of human life. While it can be argued at length that abortion is sometimes necessary, and that bringing an unwanted child into the world is itself morally reprehensible, abortion has never been an ideal answer to family planning.
While pro-life advocates appear to acknowledge the sanctity of birth, they have indicated less concern about the life a child brought into this world experiences. They need to focus additional concern on the next year to 80 years after a child is brought into the world.
3. More Accurate Census Count
Seemingly not as lofty as the issues discussed thus far, requiring people to have a license to bear children will be of enormous aid to the U. S. Bureau of the Census, all government agencies, and all institutions concerned with population and planning. This is no small benefit. Congress would be better able to allocate funds with population estimates that are closer to reality than are currently derived. Our institutions would be better able to meet the needs of citizens.
At all levels of government, better planning could be undertaken in the areas of education, health care, transportation, and housing.
Demographers, sociologists, and economists would have more robust primary data for the population projections and studies they undertake. In turn, leaders, administrators, boards of education, professors, students, and anyone else to whom population data is critical would be better informed and better served. (Note: not to say that licensees’ names would be available to commercial vendors. We all receive too many unsolicited offers now as it is.)
With vastly improved Census data, the long-term result would be improved prospects for childbirth and child-rearing among the masses, a desirable result for all aspects of society.
4. Better Child Support
Since the mid-1970s, an increasing number of children have been raised by a single parent – in most cases, the mother. Often, even when the mother and father are married when the child is conceived, the parents could be separated, temporarily or permanently, by the time the child arrives. When prospective parents understand that they’re required to get a license, there is an increased likelihood that, in the event of the demise of the relationship, the infant will still be afforded adequate resources during its childhood. Licensing would tend to decrease the incidence of cut-and-run fathers.
Some fathers who plan to be on hand when the child is born find that seven or eight months later, they don’t feel the same way. Having been part of a licensing procedure improves the odds, even if only slightly, that fathers will be on hand at the child’s birth and thereafter. If licensing resulted in a 1% decrease in the number of cut-and-run fathers, it would well be worth it.
5. With Greater Forethought
Lawyers must pass the state bar before practicing law. Some people get their driver’s licenses long before buying a car, or even driving regularly. Some potential parents – and it’s hoped that this is a large percentage – might seek to apply for a license before they attempt to conceive a child.
Having to get a license to get married is for the social good. Some people who are better off not married discover this after getting a marriage license but before heading down the aisle.
Any increase in the likelihood that prospective parents will give an added measure of forethought – or any forethought – to conceiving a child is for the social good.
In most states, when marriages are in trouble the partners can’t divorce at once; they have to endure a proscribed period of separation. In North Carolina, for example, 12 months of separate residency are required before the parents may file for divorce.
Similarly, a socially pervasive notion and legal requirement to get a license to bring a child into the world will, for some parents, serves as an incubation period. It would enable some parents to better determine whether having a baby is, in fact, what they wish to do at this time. Again, if even a tiny fraction of those who might have otherwise had a child end up not doing so, all parties benefit:
* our society that certainly doesn’t need another unwanted child,
* the parents who perhaps were not prepared to have child now, and
* yes, even the child who would have been.
If you doubt the last point, can you think of one person, if given the choice before birth, who would prefer to come into the world under any other circumstances other than being totally wanted, sufficiently loved, and adequately cared for?
6. Part of our Social Evolution
The tobacco growers in North Carolina are still scratching their heads and wondering why so many people are against what they grow. After all, their forefathers grew tobacco, and it’s always brought in healthy revenues for the state. Why upset the apple cart?
What was good for people 100 years or a generation ago isn’t what’s necessarily good for them today, or what’s good for society in general. If we were to keep things as they were, some people would be slaves. Some people wouldn’t have the vote. Fortunately, we overcame decades- and centuries-old dispositions and realized that we had to move forward. As our society becomes smoke-free, we all have the opportunity to witness social progress on a grand scale that some thought could not happen.
So, too, we each could witness social progress on a grand scale by requiring a license to have children.
Each child who comes into this world is precious. Each one deserves the opportunity for an abundant life. It is not a civil liberty to have children any more than it’s a civil liberty to buy an automobile, practice medicine, or open a restaurant. Having a license to drive indicates to everyone that driving a motor vehicle is a serious affair. There are rules of the road to which we must all adhere.
Requiring a license of medical practitioners tells both physicians and their patients that the practice of medicine is a vital and serious profession, one not to be left in the hands of those who are untrained and unskilled. Even requiring restauranteurs to have a license before serving people signals that not merely anyone can serve anything to anybody. Standards exist when it comes to food preparation, sanitation, and cleanliness. All of these examples are regulated because of the connection with others – patients, diners, other cars. Having a child who will become a citizen, go to school, an interact with other for decades is the ultimate connection to others.
Raising children is perhaps the most important undertaking on earth. When having a license to have children is the law of the land, all parents – everyone – will receive a continual message that bringing a child into the world is an important and serious matter, a message which is not fully grasped by enough adults in our society.
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