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Oregon Could Become the First State to Require In-Home Surveillance of Newborn Babies

Doctor listening to newborn baby's heartbeat

If Oregon Governor Kate Brown has her way, the Beaver State will become the first to require universal home visits for newborn children in the care of their own parents.

Senate Bill 526, introduced this month in the Oregon Legislative Assembly as part of Brown's budget, orders the Oregon Health Authority to "study home visiting by licensed health care providers." Lawmakers went so far as to declare that SB 526 is an "emergency" measure — one that requires a resolution by the end of the year. The intro to the bill, the language of which has not yet been crafted, reads:

The Oregon Health Authority shall study home visiting by licensed health care providers in this state. The authority shall submit findings and recommendations for legislation to an interim committee of the Legislative Assembly related to health care not later than December 31, 2019.

Moreover, the 18 sponsors of the bill claim that its passage is "necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety," and therefore "an emergency is declared to exist."

What's the big emergency? Apparently, the state of Oregon is concerned that some parents are raising their children without the watchful eye of Big Brother monitoring their every move — a big no-no in the view of the progressive left.

Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, told the Beaverton Valley Times that he's enthusiastic about the idea of universal inspections for newborns. "This isn't something for people in trouble. This is stuff all kids need. Stuff my kids needed," Allen said.

According to the Beaver Valley Times, "When the program is complete, every new parent — this includes adoptions — would receive a series of two or three visits by someone like a nurse or other health care practitioner. The visits could include basic health screenings for babies; hooking parents up with primary care physicians; linking them to other services; and coordinating the myriad childhood immunizations that babies need."

The program has been piloted in Lincoln County but has not been tried statewide.

Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D-Beaverton), who sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee that will hammer out the language of the legislation, has said that universal home visits are a priority for her. 

And Oregon is not alone in the push for "universal" home visits. Washington Governor Jay Inslee tweeted earlier this month, "My budget would also offer universal home visits. This gives every new parent the opportunity to get a visit from a nurse during the first few weeks back home with their newborn to share important information and build confidence."

While it's not clear whether either of these programs would be mandatory, the use of the term "universal" suggests that they would. It's frightening to think about what would happen to parents who refuse such visits.

As someone who has been involved in the homeschooling movement for more than 20 years, I have seen many attempts to increase the oversight of children taught at home by requiring home visits by a teacher or social worker. The basic premise behind these attempted power grabs is that parents cannot be trusted with the care of their own children — that an agent of the state is the only one qualified to ensure that children are being properly cared for. Without such surveillance, proponents argue, children are at risk for abuse and neglect, something they believe government agents can prevent, despite volumes of evidence to the contrary. In Oregon, in fact, children in the foster care system are abused at twice the national rate. One wonders how a state that can't handle the children currently in its care could possibly manage to surveil an additional 40,000 children per year, let alone pay for such a program (answer: it can't).

Anytime a state or locality has tried to draft legislation requiring home visits for homeschooled children, the immediate response has always been, "What are they going to do next, require inspections for children from birth until they enter school?" The answer to that, of course, is yes. That has been the plan all along. Universal preschool, universal health care, universal free lunches — the lot of it — is just a surreptitious way for the state to monitor its citizens and control their behavior by handing out freebies.

Government agents monitoring the homes of law-abiding parents who have not been accused of a crime without a warrant is an unconscionable violation not only of parental rights and individual liberty but also a trampling of the Fourth Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.

The parental right to familial self-determination has long been the constitutional standard, dating back to Pierce v. Society of Sisters in 1923 when the Supreme Court threw out an Oregon law requiring all children to attend public school. "The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only," the justices wrote. "The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations." [Emphasis added]

The idea of universal child inspections flies in the face of the ruling that the child is not a "creature of the state" and instead attempts to replace the parents' judgment with that of the state.

Parental rights groups have warned about the erosion of this precedent in recent years after a 2000 Supreme Court ruling (Troxel v. Granville) that opened the door for states and individual judges to apply their own rules. ParentalRights.org explained that on the one hand, the ruling seemed to affirm parental rights. The Court ruled:

The liberty interest at issue in this case — the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children — is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.

In light of this extensive precedent, it cannot now be doubted that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.

At the same time, the group explained, the ruling "vacated the earlier strict scrutiny test that required proof of harm before the government could interfere with parental rights, instead granting to judges the power to balance parental rights on a case-by-case basis."

Oregon and Washington are testing these muddied legal waters, hoping to take advantage of the vague language to get their hooks into children just days after they exit the womb.

While some European countries and a host of international treaties and agreements use the "best interest of the child" standard to make all kinds of decisions about children, the U.S. rarely uses that standard except during child custody proceedings where there are two legal parents who disagree about how the child should be raised and where he should live. In the U.S. the de facto assumption is that — absent evidence of abuse or neglect — parents are responsible for determining the best interest of their own children.

No state agent could ever be an adequate substitute for a loving parent, but clearly, not everyone agrees. Proponents of home surveillance cite child abuse statistics and highlight horrific cases of neglect and abuse, glossing over the fact that most of these cases involve families who were known to law enforcement authorities and social services agencies that were unable to protect the children from their abusers.

The bottom line is that the statists pushing these policies do not trust us with our own children. It's not enough for them to have their hooks in them 180 days a year, feeding them propaganda from the first day of kindergarten through the end of high school. They now want access to them from the day they are born — and they will succeed if parents don't rise up and tell the government nannies to back off.

Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard