Parental rights and wrongs
If everyone who produced a child became a responsible parent overnight we’d solve a lot of problems, but they don’t, so when I hear that “parents’ rights” are in the news, I anticipate nonsense. There are currently two news stories about “parents’ rights”. The first is about Mrs Axon from Wythenshawe, who’s going to the High Court to try to change Department of Health guidelines stating that girls aged under sixteen can have abortions without their parents’ consent and that doctors should respect their privacy. Mrs A thinks she ought to be told. The second story is about the Children and Adoption Bill being heard in the House of Lords, which will give divorced parents an automatic right of access to their children; a move backed by militant father’s groups.
Oh yes, you might be thinking, and a good thing too, but is it?
If girls get pregnant they should be able to tell their parents, but if they can’t or won’t, it may be for a very good reason. They’re entitled to expect health professionals to respect their privacy, as it says in Article 16 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN in 1989. If girls are denied confidentiality, they’re far less likely to seek help in matters of sexual health.
The NSPCC says 29 children have been killed by an estranged parent during access visits during the last decade. You can’t assume that a child is safe with someone who happens to be his or her parent; each case must be judged on its merits.
Article 3 of the convention states “All actions concerning the child should take full account of his or her best interests.” In an ideal world, such rulings shouldn’t be necessary, but children must be protected. If a child is at risk, who’s most likely to harm or neglect him or her? Those closest to him or her; not predatory paedophiles, but a parent, relative, or family friend – all the statistics bear this out. Within the family, the adults have all the power. A shocking 16% of children are seriously mistreated by their parents, and an average of one a week is killed by a parent or carer in England and Wales – these figures are from the NSPCC.
Good parents have nothing to worry about, but even they might agree that whatever is done to or for a child ought to be in his or her best interests, and that means that a child’s rights take precedence over a parent’s rights. Funny how, in all this hoo-ha, no one’s mentioned parental responsibilities.