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You should need a license to have children

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/12/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,557 times Debate No: 32415
Debate Rounds (3)
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We are all shocked by some of the stories we read in the media about negligence and abuse of children, it is one of the great evils of society, so what is the answer to the problem - a license.

It wasn't very many years ago that one needed a license to own a dog of any kind here in the United Kingdom, you still need a license to drive a car, watch TV and own some animals. You need all manner of checks and qualifications to teach, work with and look after children... yet any individuals may have children with no regards to the consequences or impact upon those children or society.

I propose that a test is introduced that will be a combination of means test and aptitude test. In the first instance the family or parent would be judged as to whether they have the means to support a further child, in the second instance that the are capable or looking after and raising the child. Those convicted of child abuse or cruelty would be automatically barred from having children, just as they would be barred from working with children. If one is convicted of animal cruelty then you can be banned from owning a pet or animals for a set period of time, so why do we treat the rights of children as less than those of an animal? there are stringent rules on adoption, so why not on natural parenthood?


Hello Michael,

this is my first debate on this website and I am looking forward to debating with you about this topic.
I assume that the United Kingdom is the proposed country for this license.

First, I would like to ask you to define the term "having children". This could refer to the act of procreation, birthing or being allowed to keep a new-born child as opposed to isolating the newborn from its parents and putting it under the care of child services.

Since you propose the introduction of a "parenthood license", the burden of proof is on you to show that such a license would in fact ensure a better childhood for children and therefore contribute to society.

I will start with three main con-arguments:
1. A "parenthood license" would be blocked by higher laws in any democratic nation.
Prohibiting parenthood is a tremendous limitation of freedom that is incompatible with laws of a modern democracy, such as the UK. But before even considering if UK-law allows such a license, the Human Rights Article 16 ( clearly guarantees every human the right to found a family.
2. It is impossible to accurately test for parenthood qualities.
You proposed testing for "that the are capable or looking after and raising the child". However, these capabilities have such a broad spectrum, ranging from communicative skills to cooking skills, that it is impossible to rate "parenting skills" accurately and empirically, which would be necessary for such a license. To further complicate things, many necessary skills are only acquired during parenthood and do not have to be present at birth of the child.
3. A "parenthood license" is impossible for practical reasons.
How would people who have children without a license be punished? Would there be an abortion? Would there be a fine? What I am trying to say is, that such a law would be impossible to enforce. And a law that is unenforceable is worthless.
Furthermore, there would be tremendous costs involved with such a procedure. Potentially even higher costs if you plan to check on parenting skills in regular intervalls after birth.
Debate Round No. 1


I would define "having children" both as the act of procreation alongside those parents wish to adopt or foster children, the license would apply to all those wishing to be entrusted with the care of children. Those wishing to adopt or foster children already undergo a most stringent set of evaluations before they are accepted to the role, they must prove that they are a fit and proper person to be entrusted with that responsibility (for there is no greater responsibility than parenthood) and i would wish to see that set of evaluation extended to all aspects of the care of children.

Your first point is indeed an issue but one that is regularly flouted with impunity by China. As population growth throughout the world becomes an increasing issue, more countries will certainly adopt policies such as those in place in China and the UN will be forced to look again at the policy. Recent years have seen the UN Charter on Human Rights become increasingly irrelevant to political leaders and institutions, the world circumstance has allowed for "liberal interpretation" of it's application and it no longer stands as an impediment to domestic or foreign policy should powerful nations decide it is so.

On your second point, they do indeed require a wide range of skills yet it is not expected that such a test would cover such topics as cooking and so forth. The idea of the test is two-fold, that the parent understands the responsibility of care and the needs of the child and that the parent is and proper person to raise a child, this second part being little different to citizenship classes that are already part of the mainstream. As you say, parenthood develops with the child and this is why a re-taking of the test at regular intervals would be necessary.

On the license's enforceability, i would drawn attention to Chinese Family Planning Policy that only allows one child for certain couples. While controversial, the policy has had benefits in social and economic terms and is overwhelmingly supported by the Chinese public. Punishments in that case involve fines dependent on economic ability of the family. I would suggest that fines would be part of the licensing plan, however for those most serious of cases, where a ban on having children has been given for reasons of abuse or neglect for example, a prison term would be likely. No abortions would be enforced, rather the children would be placed into the care of the state (as would likely happen in many cases anyway) in serious cases, in less serious cases the parents would be forced to undergo parental education.


I understand your first paragraph, that after a child was born, a decision should be made based on tests, whether the child stays with its biological parents or not. Unfit parents are already taken away custody of their children when they mistreat them in the current system. But this also raises another concern, which I would like to make into argument number 4:
4. What happens to children who's parents do not get a license?

The answer would ultimately have to be, placing them in homes, foster families, adoption or other forms of state care. How do know their childhood is going to better in those facilities. Children in homes aren't always the happiest, foster families could be just as incapable of parenthood as their biological parents.
In most countries, probably the UK as well(I am from Germany, so I have to make some assumptions about the UK at this point), institutions like child services and foster home already suffer from chronicle overload, financially and by the means of pure workload. The situation would worsen if more children fall into the system.(The requirement of a license to keep one's children would lead to more people who have to give their children away) The demand for adoptions and foster children however most likely would not increase at the same time. Adoption agencies could no longer enforce their strong adoption criteria, because there would be so many children that they would practically have to "take anyone".
concerning argument #1

I'm sorry, but the fact that China does something is just not a valid reason to ignore the human rights! Nations like the UK or Germany are bound to the human rights at the very basis of their legal systems. And that is for a very good reason!
Also China's motivation for their 1-child-rule is completely different from what you are suggesting. China introduced this policy, because the population was growing too fast. In most European countries(including UK, and especially Germany) we have the opposite problem these days. There are too few children being born( I don't want to get too far off-topic here, the buzzword for that is "demographic change", which can easily be googled.
concerning argument #2

And that exactly is the point. I for example, would consider cooking a very important skill for at least one of the parents to have. You, however, don't. The reason for that is that "parenting skills" are highly subjective. There is an almost endless list of important factors, most of which cannot be measured with an accurate scientific method. Not to mention that such tests would open a very wide field for corruption.
Taking someone's child away is a very serious matter and should not be based on subjective doubts.
concerning argument #3

Again, China doing something is no reason to do it in the UK as well. Besides, it has never been proven, that the one-child-policy actually contributes to society, let alone to the well-being of individual families and children.
Families in which children have a bad childhood are often also those with little financial resources. Charging those families with fines or even sending one of the parents to prison will be counterproductive regarding the child's well-being. Foster Families have been discussed in argument #4.
Debate Round No. 2


michaeleast1983 forfeited this round.


The vast majority of parents are caring and love their children. A parenthood license would most likely harm more good parents than those who actually mistreat their children.

In this debate my opponent has not only failed to prove that his concept would in fact improve quality of life of children in our society, but furthermore I was able to raise multiple concerns about this concept. The most critical problem, the contradiction to the human rights, is by itself a reason to bury this idea once and for all.

After even my opponent has bailed this debate, voters hopefully see that this concept might sound good, but is not very useful in the real world and therefore vote for con.

I want to thank my opponent for this debate. I too believe, that there need to be more solutions to prevent child abuse and hope that those cases decrease in the future. For that I believe, his idea was good and this debate(other ideas in the comments or new debates welcome) is valuable.
Debate Round No. 3
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