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Saving children from their parents


Arizona Daily Wildcat

By Lora J. Mackel
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 25, 2000
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Children's deaths are always tragic, but they are made even more so when they cozuld be prevented. In a four-year period, over 2,549 children died because they were not safely buckled into car seats. Countless other children contract deadly illnesses each year because their parents fail to immunize them. This type of irresponsible parenting is inexcusable, considering all the free resources available to parents. Parents who fail to adequately protect their children should be prosecuted when their children die needlessly. They should be charged with negligence and murder.

People who do not know the link between death and lack of safety belts and immunization and lack of disease have been living under a rock for the last thirty years. Children do not exactly come with instructions, but there are some basic principles that should be apparent to anyone. One of them is that kids in cars need to be strapped in all the time. And yet, they are not. The CDC study, released yesterday, finds that two-thirds of children are not strapped in regularly. The study mentions parents caving into children's requests to sit in the front seat as the number one reason they are there. Another cardinal rule of parenting is that when doctors spend the time and energy to create vaccines against childhood illnesses, there is a good chance there really is a danger. Children need to be immunized, it's important.

Parents' most sacred duty is to protect their children. Parents, from the day their children are born, are charged with providing for all their basic needs, especially issues having to do with safety. Our society demands that parents do this, and reinforces this wish with regulatory agencies. Parents are responsible for keeping their children from harm, no excuses.

Parenting is not easy. It can be confusing, especially for new parents. But there are plenty of resources available to parents in need. The Tucson Fire Department and TMC even provide low cost and free car seats to individuals who cannot afford them. The Pima Health Department provides immunizations free of charge. Children are not in danger because the community does not care, but because of parental laziness.

In addition to services available, parents and children alike are barraged with public service announcements warning against riding in cars unbuckled, children under 12 riding in the front seat and the importance of getting children immunized in childhood. Children's safety issues are not underreported. For goodness' sake, even Big Bird is out there getting the message across!

And yet, American children are still dying when they should not. Some parents are ignoring their responsibility, and it's time that the states took the hard line against them. First, the states need to pass laws making it illegal to have children riding anywhere but strapped into the back seat. Over 19 states in the country still do not have laws to that effect, and they should. Secondly, states need to pass laws that penalize parents who do not have their infants immunized. Finally, when children do die of smallpox or being ejected from the family station wagon, their parents should pay with the harshest punishment.

Some might argue that these regulations would interfere with the parents' rights to make individual decisions without state intrusion. They would be right. The children in this country deserve to be protected, and if need be, from the stupid decisions their parents make. It is fine for parents to be opposed in theory to immunizations, but a child's right to be safe and protected is far more important.

Likewise, parents who cave into their children's pressuring and allow them to sit in the front seat are not acting in their children's best interest. It is not a parent's job to be their children's friends, but to keep their children safe. Parents might have to put up with more grumbling from their children, but they signed up for that at conception.

Despite warnings, advisories, cautions and the help of concerned agencies, some American parents have shown themselves unworthy of the job of parenting. When the lives of children are at stake, it is time for the state to step in and protect them. If the thought of having their children die is not enough to scare parents into doing the right thing, maybe the threat of life in jail is. Stupid parents kill children and should pay for doing so.

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