One set of parents lost their child simply because they were gay. One father was killed just as his family brought home a newborn. In California mothers are being punished for the crime of wanting more children and being poor. In Texas hundreds of children are held in immigration centers as they come into the country, leaving their parents behind.
Between guns, cruel immigration laws, punitive welfare caps and bigotry against same sex marriage, parenting grows more hazardous and heartbreaking each day in America. That’s a lesson that Jason Riggs and Joe Hanna learned this week when they were told that they could not be on the birth certificate of their twin sons, each biologically the child of one of the couple and carried together by a surrogate mother. With Texas refusing to recognize their marriage, each man may be on the certificate of the son he has matched via DNA, but cannot adopt the other child, offering no protection to their children should one of the partners pass away.
Texas may be refusing to allow the twins to have their two dads, but in Florida a three day old baby is now fatherless, after a stray bullet was shot into an apartment and killing new father Justin Ayers. The Ayers had only just brought their new baby home from the hospital that day. Justin Ayers was killed by a bullet fired from the apartment next door, according to reports, as his inebriated neighbor was handling his loaded gun and drinking.
Parenting is a struggle under any circumstances, but one that many feel compelled to do out of love and desire for children. Unfortunately we live in a punitive society that believes that children should only belong to those who can afford them, and, if you are poor, you must be satisfied with the family you have. That is the message behind caps on welfare funding, such as those we see in California, which essentially argue that poor people don’t deserve to have the size family that they want. Not at all shockingly, the impetus behind the caps were a racial one, based on the belief that poor women, mostly minorities, should not have large families, and that they should have resources stripped from them to keep them from doing so. It’s financial coercion at its worst, while implying that those women are unfit parents. “I am here to tell you that I am trying my best to be a great mom,” Melissa Ortiz, a low-income mother of four, told Slate regarding her opposition of the caps. “I do not need to be punished for deciding to have children.”
Also not bad parents? Those who have made the harrowing decision to send their own children unaccompanied across the border into the United States. The practice has become an epidemic now, to the point where literally thousands of children are now detained and held at centers in boarder states across the country.
“The facility itself is enormous, about the size of a football field,” reports USA Today. “It has 18-foot-high chain-link fences topped with razor wire dividing the children by age and gender, one area for kids 12 and younger, areas each for boys and girls ages 13 to 15, and still more for boys and girls ages 16 and 17. Nylon tarps tied to the fences provide a modicum of privacy between the groups. The area for 13- to 15-year-old boys appeared to be the largest. A very pregnant teen sat rubbing her belly in the area for 16- and 17-year-old girls. The entire facility has the feel of the livestock areas at a state fair. Inside it smells of feet, sweat and straw.”
As a parent, the idea of sending my child alone, into another country, to start a new life? I simply can’t imagine.
A recent report by the National Partnership rates the best states for raising families, weighing things like parental leave, paid sick leave, pregnancy discrimination laws and other federal laws. Sadly, only one state, California, received an A and 17 states received an F. The Partnership report makes it clear that even once we strip away issues like discrimination, gun violence and desperately needed immigration reform, we still have a long way to go before we truly have a parent-friendly country.
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