Hey, I hope you don’t mind me throwing my two cents in here. I’m not getting my claws out or anything, ready to tear you limb from limb, just my two cents. The way I see it, the right to have children is a human right.
I’m in Canada, so I will reference our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but if you head over there you will see that there is a bit that says:
“7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”
To me, while subtle, one of the implications of this clause is the right to have children. One could argue that some people shouldn’t be allowed to have children, either because they’re only doing it for a government “incentive” or they’re just careless and eventually neglectful parents who will mistreat and abuse their children, but these people are not the norm.
There is one idea, antigovernment, that I can completely agree with: the world is overpopulated. Is this a problem? Yes. What do we do about it? Educate people about responsible child-bearing and birth control. Do we want them to stop having children altogether? No, of course not. While the problem of overpopulation is very pertinent and relevant to us earthlings right now, to stop having children altogether would be disastrous. While you can make the argument that we have soooo many children in foster homes, not to mention starving all over the world, that could be adopted or raised in place of “new” children, this is wholly impractical, and to deny this would be dishonest. So, what about only allowing some people to have children. Now we’ve stepped onto a slippery slope. Just how are we going to decide who gets to have children? It is an ethical dilemma of enormous proportions.
So, if we were to stop having children, then who would take care of the future? We absolutely have to keep having children and educating them if we want a future at all. Children are the biological embodiment of the future. Without them, we don’t have one.
Now, on to maternity leave. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms also says:
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
You might be wondering how it is relevant to the maternity leave discussion. Well, consider this situation: You are conducting interviews for your company. You come down to two female candidates that are absolutely equal in every respect except for one thing: one is young and newly married, the other is older, married with young children, and is unlikely to be having children any time soon. Who do you hire? And why?
If you are quick to say that it doesn’t matter, if either of them has a child, you’ll keep them on, they just won’t get paid maternity leave, then think about this: Say you hire the older woman and shortly after starting work her young child falls deathly ill with some disease. Will she get paid leave to care for her child? If not, then that is extremely cruel. If so, then what is the difference between granting her paid family related leave and granting maternity leave? If you think there is a difference, think again.
A child, in its infancy, is in dire need of care around the clock. This is common knowledge, you might say, and what about a babysitter or a family member? Well, the earliest months of life are crucial for the bonding of a child to its parents, and it can have a profound impact on a child’s development.
The following link is an article about attachment of young children to parents and it’s perceived possible effect on the sociability of those children:
Now, I am not contending that one article proves anything or even that the one article is an excellent study, but if you can find studies that say that there is no effect of infant attachment to parents on later development, then go for it, surprise me! I am open to being proven wrong, as always.
Alright, so where are we? Oh right, maternity leave. To deny it, I believe is to discriminate against an employee for their enacting of a basic human right: to bear children. The likelyhood of a person desiring children merely to take advantage of their employer or the government is, I believe, extremely small, and absolutely a straw-man argument.
In addition, there is very little evidence to suggest that having work benefits like maternity leave will put a burden on the economy. This is where the link in this post comes in. Read it. I can speak from experience because I live Canada, where we have maternity leave, along with a huge host of workplace benefits and social programs (like universal healthcare!), and though we are in a recession, like much of the rest of the world, we didn’t experience as much economic fallout as the U.S., and I believe that it has to do with our excellent social programs.
Anyway, to sum up, as an atheist, I am a HUGE human rights advocate. First, and above all else, we are all human. It’s the biggest in-group there is, and we need to get it together as a family and start looking out for each other’s basic rights. Then and only then can we move forward as a species, and continue to progress towards our full potential.