every institution that protects individuals from the brutenpower of the state. There is no other way to read suchnlegislative breakthroughs as the Fourteenth Amendment,nthe Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 20 years of feministnlegislation, except as deliberate assaults on the traditionalnprivileges of families, communities, and states. By liberatingnwomen from husbands and fathers, we have, at best, madenthem wards of the state. At worst, we have set both men andnwomen free from their natural element. G.K. Chestertonnonce wrote a story about an anarchist who went so far off thendeep end as to liberate the fishes from the fishbowl. It wasnhardly a day before he tried to blow up a house full ofnpeople. It took us only nine years after the Civil Rights Actnof 1964 to legalize abortion on demand.nBut the rights issue that comes closest to the abortionncontroversy is not the rights of women but children’s rights.nOnce upon a time it used to be assumed that parents by andnlarge looked out for their children’s best interests. In the pastnhundred years, however, laws have been passed on thencontrary assumption, that parents either do not know or donnot care enough to see that their children are propertyneducated, clothed, and fed. Child protection statutes do notneven provide routine habeas corpus protection to parentsnsuspected of abusing their children. Worst of all, neither thenlaws nor the self-styled experts are willing to distinguishnbetween normal, intact families, where the incidence ofnabuse is very low, and the alternative life-styles (brokennhomes, single-parent households, etc.), where the risk maynbe 40 times greater than in traditional families.nThe result is that in the name of children’s rights, childrenncan be removed from decent and caring families simply onnthe accusation of a teacher or a plea-bargaining childmolester,nso long as the case attracts the attention of anprogressive prosecutor.nAfter all, if children have rights they can hardly benexpected to defend those rights all by themselves (althoughnthere are children’s rights advocates who insist that kids benallowed to vote, hold public office, and engage in sexualnrelations with each other and with adults). Who will protectnthe rights of children from bigoted parents? Why, the courtsnof course, or (as Howard Cohen suggests in Equal Rightsnfor Children) children’s agents.nIf the government ever does decide that children are legalnpersons, endowed with all the rights of citizens, it will benwriting a death sentence not only on the family but on thenAmerican tradition of responsible self-government. Thatngoes for unborn children as well as born. But strange as itnmay seem, the pro-life movement gives only lukewarmnsupport to the states rights tactics that have a chance ofnwinning, and actually prefers laws and amendments thatnwould absolutely prohibit abortion by guaranteeing anninalienable right to life.nSetting aside the practical problem of attempting tonimpose the will of Utah and Nebraska upon the wholenUS, anti-abortionists ought to realize that a right-to-lifenamendment would not have the effect they desire. ManynEuropean countries with liberal abortion laws actuallyninclude a right-to-life provision in their constitutions, as wellnas a general presumption in favor of life. West Germany, fornexample, permits abortion if pregnancy threatens the moth­ner’s physical or mental health, if the baby is likely to suffernfrom birth defects, or (through the twelfth week) if thenpregnancy works a serious hardship, but the West Germannconstitution begins with the ringing declaration that “Everyonenshall have the right to life and to inviolability of hisnperson.”nDespite the obvious drawbacks and dangers, wellmeaningnopponents of abortion have increasingly come tonadopt the radical language of rights as their first line ofnoffense, extending the Fourteenth Amendment’s guaranteenon the protection of legal persons to the unborn andncomparing the anti-abortion campaign with the abolitionistnand civil rights movements.nThe only result of any declaration of children’s rights —nborn or unborn — will be to strengthen the government’snhand in its ongoing struggle to supplant the family. If therenis an absolute and unquestionable right to life, then abortionnwill be only one of the options forbidden to pregnantnwomen. What about smoking or drinking or, indeed, anynactivity that carried to an extreme could threaten the child’snlife or reduce its birth weight?nA District of Columbia superior court has already sentnone drug-abusing expectant mother to jail in an effort tonprotect her unborn child. The lady’s actual offense wasncheck forgery, for which she would have ordinarily receivednprobation, but the judge decided on the stiffer penalty whenna drug test turned up positive for cocaine. In a parallel casenin California, a mother of a brain-damaged child was jailednfor ignoring her doctor’s injunction against using drugs andnengaging in sexual activity during her pregnancy. The casenwas dropped, but there is a mounting debate over fetal rightsnand women’s rights.nIf the state is to protect life at any cost, doesn’t this imply anfinancial obligation to preserve the life of any child, nonmatter how deformed or hopeless, no matter what it takes?nThat means a considerable outlay of tax money, and innparallel cases, when the state assumes the burden, it also laysndown the law. The routine justification’for antismoking lawsnand seat belt regulations is the cost imposed on the public. Itndoes not take too much imagination to foresee the timenwhen couples will have to submit to genetic screening ifnthey wish to receive a permit to conceive.. Couples whondefied the law would be compelled to abort the illegal (andntherefore righdess) child.nBecause we are not all entirely crazy, this stark scenarionmight not be played out to the last act, but the underlyingnlogic is inescapable. Whenever the state discovers or redefinesna right, the implementation of that right is subject tonstate control. Government, and not families, would have tondecide cases of conflicting rights. Just this year, a judgendecided that even though child custody was granted to andivorced mother, she could not rear the child as a Catholic.nWhen the mother persisted in taking the child to Mass, shenwas given a jail sentence. The sentence was suspended, butnthere is no doubt that she will go to jail if she attempts tonexercise her freedom of religion again.nThe dialectic of rights always turns to tragedy in whichn”Force will clash with force and right with right”n{Choephoroe) as each side turns inevitably to illegal demonstrationsnand even violence. Increasing numbers of prolifers,nfrustrated by political failure, see Operation Rescue asnnnAPRIL 1989/13n