Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Defending Parental Rights from Bad State Law

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May 14, 2013
Defending Parental Rights from Bad State Law
Every year parental rights come under attack in state legislatures around the country. So while we are pushing for bills that would protect the liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children, and while we work toward our ultimate goal of passing the Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we must take time to halt these attacks state-by-state as well.

Given the localized nature of these bills – each in a single state – you probably are not aware of a lot of the work ParentalRights.org has been doing in recent months to protect families from these attacks. Here is a summary of what has been going on around the country, and what we as an organization have been doing to stop it.

Connecticut SB 169Senate Bill 169 would create a program to “screen children from birth through grade twelve for evidence of mental or emotional trauma.” As a knee-jerk reaction to the shooting at Newtown in December, this bill would violate the privacy of students and the right of parents to make health decisions for their child. ParentalRights.org opposes this bill, which unfortunately is still alive in the legislature. We will continue to monitor it and call for appropriate action as necessary.

Indiana SB 171Senate Bill 171 was a third party visitation bill. Under Indiana law, grandparents can sue for visitation under three instances, including the death of one of the parents. SB 171 proposed to add to this a fourth instance – any time a grandparent “had meaningful contact with the child” which the parents chose to terminate. This would force even fit parents and intact homes to defend against such suits, doing away with the presumption that fit parents act in the best interest of their children.

ParentalRights.org opposed SB 171, which was halted in committee. The Indiana legislature adjourned without taking up this bill.

Nevada AB 203Assembly Bill 203 in Nevada, like Indiana’s bill, would permit grandparents to sue fit parents and intact families for visitation rights to their grandchild. ParentalRights.org and our allies opposed this bill, which likewise died in committee.

New York AB 497Assembly Bill 497 and its companion bill, SB 3134, would permit health care practitioners to provide to minors, without parental consent, medical care intended to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. This specifically includes vaccines aimed to prevent the human papillomavirus (HPV). ParentalRights.org opposes this bill because it would encourage teens to exclude their parents from important health care decisions.

Washington HB 1506House Bill 1506 is a third party visitation bill that would allow any person to sue for visitation with a child, as long as the person filing suit has established a relationship with the child. The filer does not even have to be related to the child, and the law does not demand that the parents first be shown to be unfit. Even fit parents in intact families could have to defend against such suits in court.

ParentalRights.org opposed this bill, and it was not acted upon in regular session. Unfortunately, by resolution on May 13, it was “reintroduced and retained in present status” for the special legislative session. We will continue to monitor this bill and encourage action to oppose it as necessary.

Why Do We Oppose These Bills?
Ideally, families get along; parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents work together to raise strong and healthy kids. But that is not always the case.

Regardless of how healthy these relationships are, it falls to fit and loving parents to make decisions regarding the care, custody, and control of the child – including decisions regarding who has contact with that child.

So ParentalRights.org opposes any bill that would do away with the presumption that fit parents act in the best interests of their child, including any third party visitation statute that does not require a showing of parental unfitness (IN, NV, and WA bills above.) As long as a parent has been neither negligent nor abusive, the courts have no business second-guessing the parents’ decisions on who should spend time with their child.

We also oppose any bill that would remove parents from important health care decisions for their minor child (CT, NY bills above). Not only are parents financially and socially responsible for that young person, but they care more for that teen than any government bureaucrat will. When teens are facing major health issues, from vaccines to birth control to medical procedures, fit parents have a right to stand with them and help protect them from making dangerous, life-altering decisions. We cannot uphold the judicial presumption that fit parents act in the best interests of their child, while simultaneously courting a legislative presumption that teenagers somehow need to be “protected” from their parents when important medical decisions need to be made.

The Positive Side
While opposing bills like the above, of course, we have supported state bills that would establish legislative protection for parental rights. Both Virginia and Kansas passed parental rights statutes this session, and additional statutes have been introduced in Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Nevada. We are also working on lining up efforts for next year in those states whose legislative sessions have already adjourned. (To volunteer, email David@parentalrights.org.)

We are also supporting resolutions in Nebraska and Texas that would call for a national Parental Rights Amendment (PRA) and a resolution in Pennsylvania that urges the U.S. Senate to reject the Convention on the Rights of the Child. An additional pro-PRA resolution will be introduced in Michigan in the coming weeks.

As for the PRA itself, I will have an update for you on that in next week’s newsletter.

Action Items
As always, you can help support all of these efforts by telling your friends about the parental rights movement and asking them to join us in defending parental rights. Ask them to sign the petition today at parentalrights.org/petition.

You can also support all of these efforts with your donation to parentalrights.org. (We regret that donations cannot be tax deductible because of the political nature of our efforts.)

Thank you for standing with us to defend parental rights not only in Washington, D.C., but in the individual states as well.


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research

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