Please read the first part of the topic Pedophobia before reading this new post.
Make-shift memorial to a live-born baby dumped in the trash.
Although infant mortality in the developed world has decreased dramatically since the beginning of the 20th Century, that decrease is largely due to treatment (neonatal intensive care) rather than prevention. In the developed world the leading cause of infant death is congenital anomalies, but the second leading cause of infant death (a close second) is prematurity and other disorders related to gestation. Of those preterm babies who do survive the first weeks of life many eventually die of sequelae. Despite the known risks of premature birth (even late preterm birth), some parents smoke, drink alcohol, or schedule a C-section up to two weeks before term for the parents’ convenience. Despite the known benefits of human breast milk, especially for preterm infants, many mothers choose not to breastfeed – even for preterms.
In the year 2000 the international community established some Millennium Development Goals, one of which was to reduce global under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015. That goal has not been achieved even in the developed world. Globally, the proportion of deaths under one month of age has actually increased significantly since 1990. It is estimated that every year up to 100,000 patients die in U.S. hospitals (among the world’s best) due to preventable medical errors (1), so the best solution is not more and more improvements in treating preterm births but rather prevention.
Consistent with the modern focus on preventive pediatric health care, the best solution is to get people to become concerned about the risks of provoking infant death. Although abandonment (“exposure”) of unwanted newborns is not as common as it used to be, that shameful tragedy still occurs. Even in states and nations where the laws allow a mother to give up a newborn with no strings attached, some mothers still prefer dumping healthy, full-term, live-born babies in the trash. The statistics on infant mortality don’t include induced abortions.
Western culture’s widespread pedophobia is most clearly expressed in current attitudes toward abortion. In 2011, there were 730,322 legal abortions reported to the CDC. That is 219 abortions for every 1,000 live births in the U.S.: for every 5 children born alive, 1 child is aborted. Parents should certainly have the right to decide whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term (rather than government employees or somebody else deciding for them). But many adults are not satisfied with the mere right to abort; they advocate exercising that right for any reason. There is no need to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term while choosing an appropriate family to adopt the child. Just kill it before it grows too big. A human embryo is like a tumor, a popular image used by writer Camille Paglia (2).
The justice of having a right is not the same thing as the sanity of exercising that right. An analogy is that everyone should have the right to commit suicide, but that doesn’t mean everyone should exercise that right for any superficial reason. If assisted suicide becomes legal, should we advocate suicide assistance counseling centers in every community? Regardless of whether suicide is legal or illegal, there should be a focus on suicide prevention counseling, just as there should be a focus on abortion prevention counseling (3).
Aborting an unborn child is understandable under some conditions, e.g. if there is evidence that it will be severely disabled. How many adults are mentally and physically able (have adequate resources to provide a satisfying life) to adopt a severely disabled child? Raising a severely disabled child yourself is likely to discourage you from having future pregnancies and healthy children. That is a very different scenario from a parent with a healthy fetus deciding to abort as quickly as possible without bothering to find a good family willing and able to adopt the child.
Some of our biological cousins (monkeys and apes) will guard over sick offspring even after they are dead. But some modern parents have the distinction of deliberately killing even their healthy offspring, because they can’t afford a luxury apartment or larger home, or they have more important priorities like shopping or watching soap operas without annoying distractions. How dare anyone question your superficial reasons for killing a fetus?
We need not call abortion murder, but defining “life” as the period after birth is purely arbitrary. The first nine months after birth are reasonably considered a period of external gestation. If abortion of a fetus to satisfy a parent’s selfish whims is justified, then so is infanticide of babies up to nine months old if the parent doesn’t feel like taking care of the child or finding an adoptive family. That is exactly what many proponents of abortion-not-adoption probably have in mind.
Pedophobia is also expressed in the widespread cavalier attitude toward contraception. Don’t bother with contraception because you can always abort if necessary. You can throw away a fetus just as easily as throwing away a condom. If you’re pedophobic, what’s the difference? Educated adults tend to have a lower birth rate, while religious adults tend to have a higher birth rate, but as I said in my previous post the statistics need to specifically address the healthy trend in smaller families vs. the questionable trend of many adults choosing to have no child at all.
After one year of age “accidents” are the leading cause of child death, with no close second. Using the phrase “injury control” is now preferred to “accident prevention,” since the word “accident” actually implies something random and unpredictable. In reality, most childhood injuries involve well-known risk factors and preventive factors, requiring active measures to prevent injuries in childhood, such as proper restraint while riding in a motor vehicle.
In the U.S. there were 25,325 child deaths (age 1-19) from all causes in 2005, and nearly half (11,132) of which were due to “accidents.” Note that “accidents” do not officially include assault/physical abuse: +2,638 deaths. The ages of highest risk for injuries are 1-4 and 15-19, and risk is correlated with socioeconomic level: poverty, parents’ low educational level, and hazardous environment. Odd that most adult efforts at “protecting” children focus on usually non-fatal dangers (sexual abuse) rather than the most frequent cause of child death and serious injury: physical abuse and neglect euphemistically called “accidents.”
Child homicides are almost always due to physical abuse by parents. Some parents exploit the mass hysteria over “stranger danger” to try to get away with murdering their child. The parent claims the child disappeared and was probably abducted by a stranger for sex, until the police find evidence that points to homicide by the parent. Although abduction by strangers is extremely rare, whenever a parent reports a “missing” child, stranger abduction is commonly the first suspected cause. The massive media coverage dedicated to child murders (especially rare homicides by strangers) is considered appropriate to express outrage about the crimes, but there is also the possibility that many pedophobic adults (on both sides of the tube) get some macabre enjoyment from headline reports and repeated descriptions of children murdered by strangers.
Nobody enjoys hearing about more frequent child murders by parents, but both parents and non-parents seem to love hearing about relatively rare child murders by strangers. Think about that. One of the more popular videos on YouTube is of a child crying for no apparent reason: 30 million views in six months. A gruesome novel tells the story of a mother who saw the danger of extremely rare kidnapping by strangers as a good reason (perfect excuse) to put her child in a cage.
Organized religions and political parties promote population growth for ulterior motives: to maintain or increase their power; but that doesn’t mean all citizens should likewise view children as primarily an instrument to other goals. If pedophobia were not endemic, Western governments would be concerned about excessive population growth, but that is clearly not the problem in the modern West. Healthy, empathic adults should love children and want children to live and enjoy life, even if that means living with adoptive families.
Our culture should promote love of all children, whoever they “belong” to, not shame and suspicion of love for “somebody else’s” children, or the supposed “wisdom” of preventing births of healthy human beings. Pedophobia should not be considered healthy, normal, or politically correct.
- Kliegman, Robert M. et al. (eds.) Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th Ed. (Elsevier, 2011).
- Paglia, Camille. “Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson.” (Vintage Books, 1991.)
- Planned Parenthood: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-info/pregnancy/pregnant-now-what/adoption