As you probably know, I and other child advocates have been embroiled in a fight to save the health and lives of sick and injured children who are being raised in extreme “faith healing” religious groups. As of late, many of us have focused on Idaho. Not because it’s the only state that doesn’t penalize parents who deny their children life-saving medical care, but because it has a large (and apparently powerful) religious group that’s killing an average of 2 children a year through religious medical neglect.
While most Idahoans seem to support changing the laws so that all parents are required to give their children necessary medical care, there are those who hate the idea. It’s hard to say why. These opponents don’t say much about why it’s okay to let a child suffer and die from such medically treatable conditions as diabetes, infection, and cancer. Instead, they often express their caps-button-locked outrage about another issue: abortion.
As an example, on February 4, a woman named Racheal Ankeny from Nampa, Idaho, wrote this letter to the editor in response to one I wrote advocating for all children to receive necessary medical care:
It would be interesting to know how many of those same people who support the removal of the religious exemption that allows parents to not choose medical treatment for their children also buttress the right to abortion. Only a twisted power-monger would want the right to kill her own baby or for other women to kill their own babies, but not let parents opt out of medical care. Hmmm, maybe those of you who find yourselves in this camp should just invoke your Supreme Court-given right to death and leave other people’s children alone!
Pro-lifers like Ms. Ankeny seem pleased to have flashed upon what they see as hypocrisy among child advocates working on this issue. That is, they think it’s contradictory to support a woman’s right to choose and a child’s right to life. Putting aside the false assumption that every advocate who supports repealing these exemptions is also pro-choice, I’m thrilled that Ms. Ankeny and other pro-lifers seem to be on the verge of an important realization: All life is valuable.
The way I see it, if pro-lifers think it’s hypocritical to devalue the life of a fetus and, simultaneously, value the life of the born, then couldn’t they also see that it’s hypocritical to oppose abortion and support the killing of children who have exited the womb? And if they cross that bridge, isn’t it possible for them to support both the lives of the unborn and the born?
This point is not lost on Sen. Richard Briggs of Tennessee who is close to seeing his bill to repeal that state’s exemptions pass. In a recent article, Sen. Briggs said this about supporters of religious exemptions:
They were arguing both on religious and parental rights, that even if a child dies, the parent has a right to do what they want to do. I told them they had just made a great case for abortion, because the right to life does not stop at birth. The right to life is for the entire life. Part of your parental rights, duties and responsibility includes obtaining medical care when your child needs it.
Think of the opportunity here. If pro-lifers in Idaho could expand their thinking to also want to protect the lives of the born, it could mean a surge of support for vulnerable kids and give them a chance to avoid ongoing pain, longterm illness, disability, and death. Unfortunately, though, that doesn’t seem to be happening in Idaho. Why? Because these folks are not principally led by ethics—or reason for that matter. They are led by religion. Or what they believe religion is.
For religious conservatives to recognize the value of all life, they would have to be convinced that their religion supports it. And so I ask you…does anyone know of a scriptural passage of any religion that supports the life of a child? If you do, please provide it below. I will compile a list of anything that has been published in a religious text that speaks to the need to preserve the lives of the born.
Maybe then religious conservatives will advocate for all life, including that of infants, children, and teens in extreme “faith healing” groups and households.