04 August 2009

Sterilise, or not sterilise?

A rather interesting, if somewhat alarming, debate has sprung up about the mother who has had 13 kids taken away from her and is expecting her 14th, Theresa Winters

In the article, A N Wilson makes a fairly well-pitched, emotive argument that sterilisation would be an appropriate response to such drains on the state purse (yes, she and her partner live on benefit)

It's an obvious solution - I have oft heard this argument from people, even my own parents, in response to the irresponsible 'Vicky Pollards' of the world, usually from hyped up cases in the Mail, sometimes from the real-world - 'sterilise 'em all'

Whether or not they would actually agree with state-forced sterilisation is another matter, were the state to actually suggest it I think they would be less sure about their flippant remarks, but anyway, it's a perfectly valid debate

Wilson makes a good, if obvious argument - if people are abusing the state, i.e. the rest of us, in such a way then they should be stopped - the simplest solution would be an enforcement of sterilisation

It's true, nobody agrees with this sponging off the state, and it would be the simplest solution...but then 'simple' doesn't necessarily mean right - normally the simplest solution refers to trampling all over someone else rights to maintain law and order for those who decree what good order is, with liberty comes a degree of disorder, after all

To enforce this rule, first you must decide who shall be sterilised, no doubt Winters is exceptional, otherwise she wouldn't be in the news - but how many babies is wrong? She's had thirteen, but should it be ten? Five? Three-strikes-and-you're-out? Maybe just one? Bear in mind all of these will become a burden on the state, so where do you draw the line - this case of thirteen is an exceptional and emotive issue - it would be pointless to draw up legislation based on someone who has achieved the fairly monumental task of carrying fourteen kids (or at least thirteen to term)

Maybe three-strikes sounds reasonably fair - you've been warned after all, now you get sterilised - but what is the criteria? Should this relate to just benefit claimants who have their children taken away? Or how about benefit claimants who just have a lot of kids? They're a burden too, less foster care involved, but still paid for by the state, or what about tax-paying workers who have kids taken into care? - It happens, they're sending kids into state care as well

Sounds a bit like a 'slippery slope' argument - well seeing as this is an argument from the right, who are the owners of 'slippery slope', I think it's fair game - and besides, I am merely asking where it's fair to draw the line, there seems little to rationalise here - and while Wilson admits this line of debate he doesn't even try to deny these obvious ramifications, he is merely starting a 'debate' in that particular paragraph, however the debate seems rather one-sided throughout the rest of the article, based on assumptions such as

No school will ever educate them. No employer will ever want to pay them wages. Future generations of honest, taxpaying citizens will have to carry them - and all the social problems they will bring with them - as an unwanted, indeed hated, burden.

As individuals, stuffing their faces with junk food, blowing what passes for minds with alcohol or drugs, they are unlikely to have an interesting thought, do a useful deed, or have a relationship which is not abusive or damaging to others.

Those are rather strong words, yes the statistics show that these children are unlikely to fare very well, but statistics also show that those born to single parents are also likely to turn to crime and have worse education - yet here I am, I'd hate to think if some statistic had prevented me from being born - using statistics for such a purpose is going down a very dangerous road

Wilson makes the assumption that all these children will end up being criminals - again this is emotive, she has had thirteen kids - but several have had genetic and other disabilities, one died as a baby, three have been disabled

Now it's my turn to make assumptions - do disabled children tend to turn to crime? I haven't noticed many gangsters with Cerebral Palsy, and one would think they get better care and schooling than a healthy child (ironic in some ways) - making this assumption, we are now left with nine children who will be the scum-of-the-Earth Wilson so detests, not thirteen - he would have helped his argument somewhat by factoring this in when she started raving about prison-fodder when 30% of the 13 kids in the headline are unlikely to be even near criminals

Of course, they are still a burden on the state - but Wilson deliberately brings in the criminal aspect and uses it throughout the article, it needs some balance

As far as I can tell, this is a broadside on all those who leech off the state - I find little reason to attack Winters more than a feckless youth with merely one child, in that case forced sterilisation of any who claim benefits seems appropriate - some might say we are heading into the realms of totalitarian control with that sort of programme

Would it perhaps not be a better solution to reform the benefits system rather than give benefits out and then sterilise people for abusing the system? If we wish to live in a welfare state there are always going to be those who rely on it - workers are always going to pay for those who don't work as hard, there is probably a tipping point at which there are too many takers, but inevitably if you can't tolerate people sliding into real poverty then there will be people who live off hand-outs, a certain degree of social conscience must exist in a welfare state - perhaps it would be better to reduce the state intervention before we ramp it up any further

It would be less effective, yes, but probably a lot safer

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