Commentary: A child’s rights don’t end at birth
There are many people who will vote in the upcoming election based solely on the complex and emotionally fraught issue of abortion. It is not my purpose to debate the rights of unborn children with anyone. I’m writing on behalf of the millions of children living in this country whose voices have too often been drowned out by the debate over a woman’s right to choose.
I am not suggesting an either/or, born vs. unborn scenario for discussion. I am asking why throughout the years of uproar over this issue I have not heard an equally vociferous hew and cry regarding the protection of the lives of defenseless children who are suffering from abuse, malnutrition, poverty, neglect and disease while living in one of the richest, most powerful countries in the world.
Following are just a few statistics that should make every single one of us pause for a bit of deep self-examination:
There are 3.6 million referrals of abuse and neglect involving 6.6 million children made to child protection agencies every year, nearly 2,255 of those children die each year.
Over 25 million children in America live in poverty. Ranking 36th out of 41, only five of the wealthiest countries in the world have a higher poverty rate than we have.
About 13 million children in the U.S. live in food insecure households. Around 3 million of those children experience hunger and malnutrition.
One child under 12 is killed by intentional and unintentional gunfire every other day. A child who accidentally pulls the trigger is most likely to be 3 years old.
In response to these hair-raising facts, Republicans in Congress have consistently voted against the rights of living American children. Included in a long list of attempts to undermine aid and succor to children, Republicans passed a budget that cut SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, by 34 percent or $125 billion while at the same time eliminating inheritance taxes of the wealthy. They have cut funding for food stamps, voted against the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, tried to block relief funding for poisoned Flint, Michigan, children, and absolutely rejected any legislation that would require gun owners to keep their weapons locked away from children. Surely our Second Amendment rights shouldn’t trump a child’s right to live in a gun-safe environment!
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton understands that a child’s rights don’t end at birth and she has worked throughout the years to ensure those rights. If you have a child with a disability, you can thank Hillary Clinton for the Children With Disabilities Act, which made it possible for your child to attend school. She began her career working for the Children’s Defense Fund, and as first lady worked to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which today insures 8 million kids across America. While she agrees with a woman’s right to choose, she has and continues to work tirelessly to make sure all American children have as close to the same opportunities as possible as do children of the wealthy elite have.
To quote Catholic nun Sister Joan Chittister, Order of St. Benedict, “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if you want a child born, but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
Maggie Maloney is a Strasburg resident.