If you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child? The Children’s Rights Referendum

I’m going to say something up front: I haven’t been following the Children’s Referendum. I’ll almost certainly be voting on it, but since it’s still a couple of weeks away I haven’t yet devoted the time to finding out about all the issues involved and deciding which way I’ll go. I have an inkling about which way it’ll be, but I’ve been wrong about these things before in the weeks coming up to a vote.


According to rte.ie, campaigners against the referendum include “the Christian Solidarity Party, Parents for Children, The Alliance for Parents Against the State, editor of Alive newspaper Fr Brian McKevitt and solicitor and community activist Malachy Steenson“. Also speaking out against the referendum is David Quinn and his colleagues over at the Iona Institute.

Quinn describes the impending referendum as a “war on the churches“. A bit of an exaggeration, you’d think- but then again, a few paragraphs down he Godwins himself thoroughly by referring to this as one battle in an “ongoing Kulturkampf”. Owch. I’m not entirely sure what Quinn is getting at in his article- he’s never been one for clear and concise writing- but the general idea seems to be that there’s a battle to eradicate everything good and traditional about Ireland, and that the Church really didn’t have much to do with the horrific abuses children suffered in institutions over the decades.

So state bad, church good, families good. As long as they’re married, heterosexual families, of course. This perspective seems to be shared by the Christian Solidarity Party, although admittedly they are not quite as verbose as Quinn.

I couldn’t find a website for Parents for Children, but this breakingnews.ie article seemed  both illuminating and bizarre:

Parents for Children, has said it is unhappy that if a child is deemed to be at risk from his or her own parents, that under the proposed amendment, parents would be “powerless to defend children who are being failed by the State”.

Parents for Children said the State “cannot be trusted” and the option should be there to let another family member, such as an aunt or uncle, care for the child instead.

The state cannot be trusted, but the families of abusive parents can? I’m not going to say that the state is perfect. But this glorification of the family can’t do anything but keep kids in danger. The state isn’t perfect by any means. But having no recourse to remove at-risk and endangered kids from their families if necessary, because their birth family is somehow always the best place for a child? It makes no sense. Kids have the right to get away from abusive and dangerous situations, and their rights trump the right of parents to a child.

The other anti-referendum group that I found was the Alliance of Parents Against the State. This group have a (badly formatted) list of ten reasons to oppose the referendum. Finally, some clarity! A selection:

3/The State can decide for example to vaccinate every child in Ireland, and the parent, and even the child have no say in the matter. You do not need to be consulted or give permission. Joan Burton has already hinted that Child Benefit will be tied into vaccination records, this could be extended to school admission.

I’m not seeing why this is a problem. I assume that exceptions would be made for kids for whom vaccinations are medically contra-indicated. Herd immunity is incredibly important, especially for kids in schools. If I had a kid, I wouldn’t want them to be at risk because someone else refuses to give their kid vaccinations. And every kid deserves to not be at risk of painful, potentially debilitating illnesses that are easily preventable.

4/ The State can decide to give give Birth Control to children of any age, even if they are below the Age of Consent. The State can bring children to other countries for abortions without parental consent and even if the child disagrees. (X case, C Case, D case)

The Irish state? Forcing abortions on people? You have got to be kidding me! This is the same state that forces seriously ill women, rape survivors and women whose fetuses are dying in the womb to travel out of state for abortions. I’m not sure what slippery slope these people or on, or what you have to smoke to see it.

Also, birth control for underage kids? Sounds fine by me. Given that the alternatives are  increased teenage pregnancy and STI rates if those kids are actually having sex, and kids having to live through godawful menstrual complications (would you like some endometriosis with your PCOS, anyone?) otherwise. I guess what they’re implying is that this will lead to every 12-year-old in the country joining wild orgies somewhere. But if a BC prescription is the only thing stopping that, we’ve got more problems on our hands.

And so on. Check ’em out for the rest of their points.

You know, in all this one thing I can’t wrap my head around is how people who don’t think that pregnant people should have the right to decide to give birth, after that think that parents should have ultimate sovereignty over their children? I’ve never been through labour myself. But I have watched more episodes of One Born Every Minute than I should probably admit to in public, and I’m not sure where in all the swearing, pooing, vomiting, cursing, crying and epidurals comes the magical responsibility fairy.

When I started writing and researching this post I had no idea how I would vote on the 10th. Having not yet looked up the pro-referendum side, I’m still not entirely sure. But if this is the best that the opposition have to offer? I don’t think it’ll be a tough call.