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Thursday, March 05, 2009
March 3, 2009
Why the PRA is needed: A Change of Heart.

Several people have asked me why I took down this Parental Rights Amendment blog I started several years ago. There were several reasons, most of which aren’t very important, but the one that led me to second think the entire issue was the death of a beautiful little 15-month-old girl in Oregon on March 2, 2008, a year ago yesterday.

She died because her parents, Raylene and Carl Worthington, did not seek medical treatment for their daughter who died – totally unnecessarily – from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and an infection. Her parents, members of the Followers of Christ Church, chose prayer for their daughter instead of a dose of anti-biotics. Little Ava was buried near the end of the Oregon Trail in the cemetary near her infant brother who died about 10 years ago. (1, 2)

Little Ava didn’t choose to die. She didn’t choose to refuse medical treatment, she was totally dependent on the adults who were supposed to care for her to see that she was given every chance to grow up. Had she grown up, then refused medical treatment based on her religious beliefs, we would have respected HER choice to practice her religious beliefs.
Section 2 of the draft Parental Rights Amendment indictates that “Neither the United States nor any state shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.” (3)
The PRA would have enabled the government to exercise it’s ‘compelling governmental interest’ in the well-being of Ava, and all the other children like her, and step in to order the necessary medical treatment for her. The passage of the Parental Rights Amendment could have enabled the government to save her life.
"Under this act, before the US government could interfere in the parent-child relationship, the government would have to show that the action is necessary to protect a compelling interest and that the means that the government uses to protect this interest is the least restrictive available.' …aknowledging that the measure would…authorize direct federal involvement in the home if that involvement can be swaddled in the rationale of a government-defined 'compelling interest'." (4)
Michael Farris, the author of the PRA has written, “I also believe that God commands the government to punish those who do evil. I Peter 2:14. I believe that this includes the power of government to punish parents who do evil to their children. If a parent rapes a child, beats a child with chains, intentionally breaks a child's arm, or intentionally starves a child the government has the responsibility to punish such evil doing. Likewise, if a parent denies their child food, clothing, basic shelter, or education I believe the government can punish such a parent because God requires the parent to furnish all these things to their child.” (5)
While Mr. Farris does not specifically cite denying a child medical treatment, it is inhumane to do so and surely evil. What loving God would command parents to allow their child to suffer horribly and die unnecessarily when He has gifted so many with the blessing to heal?
Oh, I know to amend the U.S. Constitution because of one horrific case doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately Ava isn’t alone.
Jeffrey Dean Beagley, 50, and his 46-year-old wife, Marci Rae Beagley, have pleaded not guilty to charges of criminally negligent homicide for failing to provide adequate medical care, in violation of their duties as parents. Their 16-year-old son, Neil, died in June from complications of a urinary-tract blockage that triggered heart failure. Doctors said a simple procedure could have saved his life. Neil was Ava’s uncle.(6)

In Wisconsin, Leilani and Dale Neumann face reckless homicide charges in the death of their 11-year-old daughter due to complications from diabetes. Leilani Neumann has said the family believes in the Bible and that healing comes from God, but she said they do not belong to an organized religion or faith and have nothing against doctors. (7, 9)

Oregon amended its law after the discovery in 1998 of many children's graves, and the death of an 11-year-old member of the Followers of Christ from complications caused by diabetes. In a 1998 study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, Dr. Seth Asser and Rita Swan, herself a former Christian Scientist, documented 172 faith-related child deaths in the United States between 1975 and 1995. They found that 140 of the children died from conditions for which survival rates with medical care exceeded 90 percent. (8)

In 1986 David and Ginger Twitchell, Christian Science parents in Boston were acquitted of manslaughter charges in the 1986 death of their 2-year-old son from a congenital defect that caused the bowel to twist and become obstructed. Massachusetts lawmakers subsequently abolished the state’s religious exemption. (8)

And the story goes on, deaths of children. Adults die, too, but it is their choice to exercise their religious freedom.

Passage of the Parental Rights Amendment, as championed by Michael Farris, the Home School Legal Defense Association and it’s subsidiary, Parental Rights.org would put an end to parents who cause the deaths of their own children in some crazy, misguided and possibly psychotic belief that watching their children died needlessly in agony is somehow a religious right. As a society, we do not need those kinds of martyrs. Passage of the PRA would enable government to interfere in the decisions of parents that are not acting in their child’s best interest.

So there you have it: a change of heart. Let’s pass the PRA. Let’s do it for Ava, Neil, Bo, Kara, Baby Worthington and all the others.

M-M

1. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=6436872&page=1
ABC News, Faith Healing Parents Assert Religious Rights, December 10, 2008.
2. http://www.kgw.com/news-local/stories/kgw_033008_news_faith_healing.1742971c.html
kgw.com and AP Staff. Couple pleads 'not guilty' in faith-healing death of baby, April 1, 2008
3. Parentalrights.org
4. William Norman Grigg, "Does the State Own Your Child?" The New American [Magazine], July 8, 1996, page 7.
5. Michael Farris, “Compelling Interest” letter dated December 12, 1997
6. ABC News, Faith Healing Parents Assert Religious Rights
7. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/21/us/21faith.html?_r=3,
Trials for Parents Who Chose Faith Over Medicine, January 21, 2009
8. http://www.katu.com/news/34932419.html
Child deaths test faith-healing exemption William McCall, AP, November 22, 2008
9. http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,341574,00.html Police: Girl Dies After Parents Pray for Healing Instead of Seeking Medical Help, March 26, 2008