Tag archives: Parental Rights

Trump’s Office of Civil Rights is Becoming a Beacon of Freedom for the American People

by Connor Semelsberger

December 5, 2019

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has once again taken action to protect Americans, this time from disability discrimination. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) initiated an investigation into the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) upon learning that two small children were removed from a mother and father simply because the mother and father had a disability. The children were removed shortly after their birth based on the assumption that the parents would not have the ability to care for the children because of their disability, stripping away their parental rights.

Since the Oregon policy assumed from the children’s birth that a disability prevented the parents from caring for their children, they had to undergo psychological evaluations and participate in parenting classes to prove that they were fit to be parents. Thanks to a local county circuit court dismissing the neglect petition, the parents were finally able to be reunified with their children. If the county court had not stepped in, the Oregon Health Department would not have reunited the family.

These actions prompted OCR to convey major concerns to ODHS with how policies to prevent discrimination against parents with disabilities were being implemented in Oregon. Fortunately, the Oregon health department agreed to comply with federal disability rights laws and update its policies and procedures to create a new disability rights training plan. It is very unfortunate that these parents in Oregon had to go four years without custody of their eldest child simply because state officials decided their disability prevented them from being proper parents without any evidence to prove so. Thankfully, the Office of Civil Rights at HHS investigated this case and worked with the state of Oregon to make systemic changes to their child custody policies so that future parents with disabilities will not have their parental rights taken away.

From enforcing conscience protections for nurses who object to performing abortions, to preventing further sexual abuse at Michigan State University, this is just another example of how President Trump’s HHS has followed through with enforcing all federal anti-discrimination laws, not just ones that fit into his political agenda. An administration should not get to pick and choose which civil rights laws to enforce, but unfortunately there are many federal civil rights laws that are not prioritized and are even forgotten due to political reasons. For example, in 2011, the Obama administration issued new regulations to limit the number of federal conscience protection laws that would be enforced by HHS to only three. This is in stark contrast with a new Trump administration regulation currently pending in the courts to enforce 25 existing conscience protection laws.

Protecting Americans from all types of discrimination has been a priority of the Trump administration from the beginning. Examples like this parental rights case demonstrate that if someone who believes they have been discriminated against files a complaint with OCR, the administration will follow the appropriate civil rights laws and take all complaints seriously.

Parental Opt-Outs and Conscience Exemptions

by Travis Weber

June 23, 2015

It’s a long-established principle that parents can “opt-out” of having their children take part in certain sex education classes they may find objectionable for a variety of reasons. Recently, some have even proposed “opt-in” requirements. One proposal in Utah reportedly “would require all public schools in the state to obtain written consent before providing human sexuality instruction to students, holding harmless those students who don’t enroll.” Such a presumption maximizes freedom; it expands the distance between the heavy hand of the state and individual rights. It doesn’t entirely disconnect the two, but certainly keeps a healthy distance between them. And these parental “opt-out” requirements have widespread support; many understand why they exist: we want to protect individual rights and the freedom of families to raise their children and govern their family unit as they see fit.

Such “opt-out” requirements have an analogue in conscience exemptions in the abortion context. For years, although abortion has been legally protected as a right under the Constitution (erroneously, I might add), our law has also protected the consciences of those who disagree and ensured they are not forced to take part in practices which violate their beliefs. This also maximizes freedom for all Americans.

Similarly, such exemptions naturally follow in the context of same sex marriage, should it be declared to be protected as a constitutional right. In that case, it would be the default position that individuals desiring such marriages would be able to legally enter them, and thus legislation protecting those who disagree from being forced to violate their beliefs through compelled participation in the process of such marriages would be absolutely necessary. Such legislation has already been proposed. At the federal level, the First Amendment Defense Act would provide such conscience exemptions. Similar protections are needed at the state level.

Like parents who want to (and are able to) “opt-out” of having their children exposed to certain matters at school, many have wanted to (and have been able to) similarly “opt-out” of forced complicity in abortion. It is quite logical that many will likewise want to (and should be able to) “opt-out” of forced participation in the process of same-sex “marriage.” In all these cases, the “opt-out” protects individual rights and maximizes personal liberty. It is the quite natural, logical, and freedom-loving position.

Parental Rights Trampled by NY Judge

by Anna Higgins

April 15, 2013

In a stunning overreach of authority last week, a District Court Judge overruled the decision of U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding Plan B, an “emergency” contraceptive. In 2011, Sebelius refused to extend over-the-counter (OTC) status for Plan B to teens under 17 years of age. Judge Edward Korman of the Eastern District of New York ruled that within 30 days, the FDA must make Plan B available OTC for all ages – putting the health of girls at risk and trampling the right of parents to be involved in decisions regarding their daughters’ well-being.

There have been no studies on the effects of this powerful hormonal drug on adolescents. Additionally, the label comprehension study done on Plan B did not include young girls. As a result, even if it were safe for young girls to use this drug, there is no way of knowing whether they have the capacity to administer the medication properly. In fact, in the defense of her decision, Sebelius noted that there are “significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age.” These potential dangers highlight the necessity for parental guidance and professional medical input into the administration of contraceptives to young girls.

No parent wants a teenage daughter to acquire potentially dangerous medication without his or her consent. Allowing OTC access for a drug that has a close correlation to premature sexual behavior presents dangers of increased sexual activity among minors and with it, the increased likelihood of the contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The total number of STI’s in the United States has reached 110 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This represents the total number of STIs, not the total number of persons infected. Because a person may have several STIs simultaneously, sexual promiscuity plays a key role in their spread and quantity. Most of the new cases crop up in young people, ages 15-25. In the UK, where emergency contraception is already available OTC for teens, there has been a spike in the incidences of STI’s. To compound the problem, since teens will not need a prescription for these emergency contraceptives, they will avoid routine medical screenings during which STI’s would have been identified and treated.

Additionally, there is a very real danger that making Plan B available OTC will result in administration of the drug to young girls under coercion or without their consent. Doctors and parents are the first line of defense for girls who have experienced some kind of sexual abuse. By allowing this drug to be available without medical supervision, we run the serious risk of not identifying instances of sexual abuse among teens, especially as human trafficking becomes more widespread in our country.

In a day and age when the family unit is under attack from all angles, it is extremely irresponsible to create a new situation that will serve to drive a further wedge between parents and teens. Instead of distributing contraception like candy to teens, we should encourage honest communication within families. Parental guidance is areas of sexual behavior and health is essential to the development of responsible, healthy adults.

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