Op-Ed

Ky. Voices: What about protecting children struggling in life?

As we begin another presidential election cycle, we are bombarded by the candidates pontificating about believing in the sanctity of life.

Really? I have noticed that these same politicians focus most of their attention on the rights of the fetus, but abandon their concern for the babies once they are born.

Let's explore how fully politicians really believe in the sanctity of life of children.

Currently, more than 8 million children are not covered by medical insurance. The obstructionists who blocked passage of the health insurance bill conveniently gloss over this fact. People at a Republican debate cheered when Rep. Ron Paul said he would let an uninsured 30-year-old man die.

Such approval suggests that they feel the same way about letting his uninsured children die. Is letting a 5-year-old die of leukemia rather than provide health insurance a fair payoff to avoid "creeping socialism"?

This smacks of the Scrooge approach: Let the poor children die so as to decrease the surplus population and thereby reduce the number of kids on the federal dole.

The real problems begin after birth. Over 25 percent of very young children, or about 6 million, live in poverty. A report from 2006 found that 18 percent or 13 million children were going hungry or at risk of going hungry.

Newt Gingrich believes we should repeal the child-labor laws so children can provide janitorial services in their schools. I guess we can spray a toddler's diapers with Endust and let him scoot around the floor at the Head Start center.

Children lucky enough to survive the early years will need to survive the various kinds of abuse prevalent in our society. More than 1.25 million children — or about one child in 58 —are abused or neglected in America according to a report from 2010. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before age 18.

The average age of first abuse is 9.9 years for boys and 9.6 years for girls. Twenty-nine percent of forcible rapes involve children under 12 years old. Forty four percent of victims are under the age of 18. Ninety three percent of the abuse victims know their attackers, and 60 percent of girls under 15 are attacked by an adult at least 6 years older. Victims of sexual abuse oftem become abusers and struggle with severe emotional and psychological problems their entire lives. I wonder if the diehard capitalist crusaders for the sanctity of life would feel better if the victims were turning tricks for profit.

Those children who escape these horrors must confront the threats of violence and murder. The murder rate for children in this country is over four times the rate of the rest of the Western world, about 4.1 per 100,000. A report in 1999 found that 3,385 kids under the age of 18 were killed by guns each year, or about nine per day. This figure includes homicide, suicides and accidents. Between 2,000 and 3,000 children are killed by their parents each year in this country.

The kids who survive are not out of the woods. Every year, 750,000 children, or about 2,000 per day, are reported missing. Most are runaways or abducted by a family member. One hundred of these will be murdered, often by a family member.

But let's remember how every child is not a wanted child. In 2010, there were 408,425 children placed in foster homes. The median age of 9.2 years means that one half of those in foster homes are under age 9. Many of these are special-needs children with physical, mental or emotional issues that will reduce their chances of being adopted.

Far too many children drown their cares in alcohol and drug abuse. In one study, 25 percent of ninth graders reported binge drinking in the past month. Sixty two percent of high school seniors reported being drunk in the past month. Over 30 percent of eighth graders and 52 percent of high school seniors admitted to abusing illicit drugs.

Those children lucky enough to make it through these pitfalls must deal with the fact that the leading cause of death of children in this country is car accidents. On average, four kids are killed in automotive accidents each day, with many of these accidents caused by drunks or drivers distracted by cell phones.

All these candidates are quick to wrap themselves in a religious cloak. They must like the biblical passage that says, "Suffer the little children," because they seem to be intent to see that they do.

  Comments