“RAPE AND PARENTAL RIGHTS”
What rights and responsibilities does the father of a child conceived through rape have regarding the child?
In 2011, Jamie Melendez, 20, pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old girl, who became pregnant as a result of the rape. He was sentenced by a Massachusetts court to 16 years probation.. As part of the conditions of his
probation, the court ordered Melendez to pay weekly child support until the child reaches
the age of 18. Melendez offered to relinquish state-allowed visitation rights if the
requirement for child support was dropped. The mother asked the court to require
Melendez to pay criminal restitution in lieu of child support so she would not be forced
into having contact with her rapist for 16 years. The judge ruled against her request.
According the Centers for Disease Control, 18.3% of U.S. women report that they have
been raped at some time in their life. Each year about 1.3 million women are raped in the
U. S., with approximately 32,000 of these rapes resulting in pregnancy. In a Chicago
Tribune article (4 September 2013), Chicago attorney and activist Shauna Prewitt noted
that approximately 30% of women who conceive a baby through rape choose to raise the
child. At the time of the Chicago Tribune article, thirty-one states allowed fathers of
children conceived during rape the same custody and visitation rights as other fathers.
Pennsylvania law, for example, allows a woman either to retain sole custody rights and
deny visitation to the rapist who fathered her child, or to seek child support from him.
She cannot do both. Ohio law requires a woman to obtain permission from her rapist to
place a child, conceived by rape, up for adoption.
Under what conditions, if any, would it be ethically acceptable to commercially slaughter horses in the United States of America?
The cost of maintaining a horse that is no longer useful (i.e., one that is lame, old, or
otherwise unsuitable) is high—so high that some consider it prohibitive. According to a
report from the Animal Welfare Council (2006), the cost of taking care of such a horse is
$2,340 per year. The animal could be expected to live another eleven years after its
productive life, resulting in a cost that could exceed $25,000. The Unwanted Horse
Coalition estimated in 2007 that there were 170,000 unwanted horses in the U.S. Options
for disposing of a horse include letting it die of starvation and neglect, euthanizing it, or
sending it to an equine slaughterhouse. Starvation, as a form of cruelty, is prohibited by
law, but becomes the default solution when owners are unable to care for the animals.
Euthanizing and burying a horse is significantly more complex and expensive than
disposing of smaller animals. There are currently no domestic equine slaughterhouses.
Reliance on foreign slaughterhouses exposes the horses to stressful shipping and to
conditions uncontrolled by U.S. laws regarding humane treatment of animals.
Until recently, there were three equine slaughterhouses in the United States, two in Texas
and one in Illinois, but all three are now closed. According to a story by Forbes (January
2012), the mayor of Kaufman, Texas, had waged a twenty-year campaign to get the local
horse slaughterhouse shut down. The company, Dallas Crown, had allegedly caused the
local citizens enormous problems. It had installed a pump to force horse blood through
the town's sewer system, but the pressure of the pump burst some pipes and sent the
blood into citizens' bathtubs and bubbling up onto the streets. The company grounds
contained open piles of offal, which attracted vultures and flies and gave off a stench that
permeated local businesses and homes.
Outside the United States, when horses are slaughtered, they mostly are destined for
human consumption. According to a 2008 report from the Alberta Equine Welfare Group,
over one billion people in the world eat horsemeat. In 2005, China was by far the largest
consumer, (421,620 metric tonnes). Other major consumers were Mexico (84.17 t), Italy
(63.29 t), France (24.54 t), Australia (19.12 t), and Japan (15.84 t). In Britain and
America, however, where horses are thought of more as pets, there is a strong social
stigma against eating horses.
In countries where horsemeat is consumed, it is served in much the same way as beef: as
steaks, sausages, smoked and sliced for sandwiches, and so forth. Basashi is a form of
Japanese sashimi: thin slices of raw horsemeat. Equine meat has somewhat higher
nutritional value for humans than beef.
“SHOT IN THE DARK”
What limits, if any, should there be on people’s rights to defend themselves, loved ones, or their property?
Joshua Moore, 64, and his wife, Carol, ran a fruit stand from the back of their truck every
Saturday for 25 years in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. One Saturday morning in July
2006, 16-year-old Manny Harris, in a robbery attempt, struggled with Carol Moore.
Joshua Moore shouted for Harris to back off. Harris backed off momentarily, but returned
again more aggressively. Mr. Moore, who did not know whether Harris had a weapon,
fatally shot him. Joshua Moore was charged with second-degree murder. Although North
Carolina law recognized self-defense as a natural right, the trial judge instructed the
jurors not to consider self defense or defense of a family member in their deliberations,
and to return a verdict of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or voluntary
manslaughter. Moore was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Moore spent several
years and thousands of dollars defending himself in the courts. In 2012, the North
Carolina Supreme Court overturned his conviction, finding that the trial court should
have instructed jurors to consider in their deliberations, as Mr. Moore’s attorney had
requested, that he was defending his wife.
Proponents of self-defense laws, such as the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground
statutes, believe that Joshua Moore was unjustly prosecuted. As of July 2013, half of all
U.S. states had a Castle Doctrine statute, which allows the use of deadly force in selfdefense
or to protect one’s property or prevent home invasion. A fundamental principle
of the Castle Doctrine is exemption of the home dweller from the duty to retreat. Duty to
retreat requires persons threatened with harm to avoid using lethal force by removing
themselves, if possible, from the threat. Another nineteen states have a Stand Your
Ground statute, which goes beyond the Castle Doctrine. Stand Your Ground statutes
protect the right to use deadly force in the face of a reasonable belief of threat to person
or property, without an obligation to retreat from danger. Stand Your Ground statutes
extend the right to use deadly force to any place a person has a legal right to be, not just
Besides protecting innocent people who use deadly force in self-defense from physical
harm, proponents point out that Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground statutes offer
protection from litigation by assailants, or their survivors, who may sue for restitution.
Opponents of Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground statutes assert that such laws allow
killers to go unpunished. The perception of threat can be subjective, and it is nearly
impossible to determine if threatening actions were provoked or situations manipulated to
create an opportunity to use deadly force under the guise of self-defense.
Markus Kaarma and his wife, Janelle Pflager, had been burglarized twice in a three-week
period in Spring 2014, shortly after moving from Washington state to Missoula,
Montana. Thieves took several items, including cell phones and credit cards. Frustrated
that police were unable to catch the burglars, and fearful for the safety of their ten-monthold
baby, Kaarma and Pflager set a trap to catch the thieves. They mounted a surveillance
camera in their garage, and installed motion detectors outside. On the evening of 26 April
2014, Pflager placed a purse far inside the garage and the couple left the garage door
open. Shortly after midnight, motion detectors alerted the homeowners that someone was approaching, and the surveillance camera showed a stranger rummaging in the garage.
Diren Dede, 17, was “garage-hopping,” a trend among Missoula teenagers who enter
garages to steal small items, often alcohol. While Pflager recorded pictures from the
surveillance camera and called 911, Kaarma picked up a shotgun, went out the front door,
and shot four blasts into the dark garage. When Pflager turned on the lights and saw that
Dede was wounded, she and Kaarma tried to administer life-saving procedures until help
arrived. Dede died later that morning, and Kaarma was charged with deliberate homicide.
Kaarma’s attorney said that his client, fearful of danger to his family, was justified in
using deadly force under Montana’s Castle Doctrine.
From a moral point of view, was the sentence that Ethan Couch received appropriate?
Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old Texan, crashed his pickup truck into a group of people while
driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. He killed four people near a
disabled car by the road and seriously injured two of seven youths riding in his truck.
Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Couch to a lockdown rehabilitation facility and ten years
probation. He will face a ten-year jail sentence if he drinks alcohol, uses drugs, or drives
while on probation.
The media fanned international controversy by picking up on defense expert testimony
given by a psychologist. The psychologist claimed that Couch was the victim of
“affluenza,” that he was incapable of good judgment due to lack of limits set by his
wealthy parents. Observers, victims, and the victims’ families were appalled that Couch
received such a light sentence. They claimed that the judge was influenced by the
affluenza defense and allowed a spoiled rich kid’s parents to buy him a pass on real
Texas courts are guided by research indicating that rehabilitation is more productive than
punishment in dealing with minors who commit “unintentional” crimes. The judge’s
ruling is consistent with other Texas rulings. Critics of the Judge Boyd’s sentencing
wonder if a stricter punishment would better fit the severity of crime.
Ethan’s family settled a civil suit by one teen who was paralyzed by the crash who will
require lifelong round-the-clock care. Families of the other dead and injured victims have
also filed civil suits for damages. In an interesting twist, Couches parents had volunteered
to pay for a $450,000-a-year treatment facility in California, but Couch was directed to a
state facility in Texas. There the charges are $260,000 a year but state tax subsidy will
pay 95% of that fee leaving the parents to pay $14,040.
What accommodations, if any, should be made for transgender students?
One of the greatest problems facing transgendered students is safe access to restrooms
and locker rooms. They are often harassed or threatened, whether they use the women’s
or the men’s restroom, and consequently feel unsafe in either facility.
Schools are struggling with assuring the safety and rights of transgendered students.
For example, Alex Wilson self-identified as a girl when she was 12. For the last five
years, since she turned 21, she has been living as a woman. As a nursing student at
Florida’s Pinellas Technical Education Center, Alex had been using the women’s
restroom without incident until August 2013, when a fellow student complained to
administrators. The administration threatened Wilson with arrest if she continued to use
the women’s restroom. She was given two other options: use either a storage closet
across campus or the men’s restroom.
On 1 January 2014, California’s School Success and Opportunity Act (AB1266) became
law. Although previous legislation prohibited discrimination, transgendered students still
ended up being excluded from participating in sports, physical education classes,
athletics, and other school activities, and access to restrooms and locker rooms of
consistent with their gender identity. The law was necessary because some students and
parents worried about children being assaulted in the locker room, administrators feared
lawsuits if they allowed students with the genitalia of one sex to use the restrooms
assigned to the opposite sex, and some students felt uncomfortable sharing locker rooms
and restrooms with transgendered students.
With the enactment of AB1266, California became the first U.S. state to pass legislation
ensuring transgendered students the same opportunity as all other students to participate
in all school activities and programs. AB 1266 requires schools to allow transgendered
students to use all facilities (including restrooms and locker rooms) that match their
gender identity, rather than their sexual identity.
(f) A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school
programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and
use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of
the gender listed on the pupil’s records (AB1266, Section 221.5).
In contrast, Utah's proposed House Bill 87 would require students either to use only the
restroom that corresponds to their sexual identity (documented by birth certificate or
doctor’s examination) rather than their gender identity, or to use a separate restroom set
aside for transgendered students that must be provided at the student’s request.
Supporters of equal protection and rights for transgendered students applaud laws that
remove barriers preventing transgendered students from full access to the same
educational and extracurricular opportunities that other students enjoy. They point out
that the discomfort of seeing people not of the designated sex in a bathroom or locker
room does not justify discrimination.
Opponents to legislation allowing transgendered students to choose which restroom and
locker room to use, and which sex-segregated team to join, express concern that such a
law provides sex offenders an opportunity to infiltrate locker rooms they normally would
not be able to access. Some opponents claim that the intent of such legislation is to use
schools as a means to encourage alternative sexual lifestyles. Conservative faith-based
groups argue that laws protecting or promoting the rights of transgendered individuals is
incompatible with their religious beliefs. For example, Genesis 1:27 is often quoted to
justify the position that anything other than adherence to the strict male-female
dichotomy is immoral: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He
created him; male and female He created them.”.