Saturday, January 15, 2011

Introducing: The Parma Charter of the Rights of the Newborn

As I was browsing the internet, I came across a reference to The Parma Charter of the Rights of the Newborn.

It was produced by the Union of European Neonatal & Perinatal Societies.

Their objective in drafting this charter is

to provide a landmark for policymakers, administrators, scientific corporations and more generally for citizens and all those who for various reasons are involved in the promotion and protection of the newborn’s health.

From a pro-life perspective some of these declarations are very interesting. Consider:

2.- Every live newborn is entitled to appropriate assistance during delivery. This assistance must be guaranteed with equality and an absolute refusal of any form of discrimination, regardless of gestational age, weight, sex, the presence of malformations, economic or social class, ethnic origin and/or religion.

From my vantage point in Canada, this right is very interesting, because seeing as the unborn child in Canada isn't considered a rights-bearer until he is delivered, he cannot be guaranteed the right to appropriate assistance.

Should this Charter gain clout globally (a longshot, but not impossible) it would be an important instrument in the pro-life cause.

The mention of gestational age and weight is also interesting. It raises some questions.

What if the child suffers from a botched abortion? Is he still entitled to assistance in delivery, in spite of gestational age and weight? What if the goal was to abort the baby because of malformations?

What if the mother doesn't want "appropriate assistance" during delivery? Is the doctor bound to respect her wishses in that case? What if she doesn't want a malformed child, or was raped by a person of a different race and doesn't want to try to save this baby?

Does the newborn still have a right in spite of her wishes?

No doubt, feminists would makesure that the newborn's rights is contigent on her wishes.

Here's another interesting clause:

8.- In the case of the birth of a severely ill newborn (extreme prematurity, malformations or life-threatening abnormalities, etc.) appropriate treatment must be guaranteed, including palliative care and pain control, avoiding both therapeutic obstinacy and the practice of euthanasia.

Considering the Netherlands' practice of child euthanasia, this is most interesting and most welcome. Somehow I doubt that their fellow colleagues are open to this.

The provision of palliative care could help the pro-life cause in giving parents an alternative to abortion. If the pro-life movement could develop a positive and well-publicized narrative of giving birth to a baby with a lethal deformity, this might make carrying to term an attractive option. As it stands, parents often feel pressure to abort, and think there is no other option, and that giving birth to a baby who will die in front of your eyes is more depressing than abortion.

10.- The newborn is a person and as such he is entitled to the full respect of his dignity. He is nevertheless a very special “citizen” who has rights but no duties and who, for the recognition of his rights, depends totally on the attention and commitment of others. The awareness of the newborn as a person and of his vulnerability and dependence constitutes the fundamental grounds for his rights to be recognised, protected and satisfied.

This clause should have been number 1, because this is the source of all the other rights.

We should not take the personhood of the newborn for granted. Given that personhood is no longer identical to humanity and arbitrary lines have been drawn for accepting equality, if we do not shore up protection for the newborn, one day newborns will be excluded as rights bearers once it is deemed convenient to do so.

Since I don't have access to the original article, I can't comment any further. Perhaps someone reading this might have access to the journal that published it. The author might provide further commentary to the Charter and what they intend to do with it.

Right after I hit the Publish button, I clicked around the UEPNS website and found this double set of declarations, which elaborates the mother's rights along with the baby's rights. It is a pro-abortion document. Note Clause #1:

Maternity must be of free choice
. Each individual woman has the right to decide the best time to have children, the time interval between siblings and how many she wishes to have. The use of efficient contraceptive methods must be accessible to every woman.