What We Are Learning from Charlie Gard

Parental Rights Matter to Us All

An 11-month-old, severely ill baby in the United Kingdom has become the talk of the world. Charlie Gard, sick with infantile onset encephalomyopathy mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS) and with little chance of recovery, is all over the news and the internet.

The issue at hand is whether Charlie’s parents or his government should decide when it is time to remove the child from life support. Under British and European law, when doctors and parents disagree, a judge makes the final call. And, not surprisingly, the judge is not as intent as Charlie’s parents are on taking every available option before they pull the plug.

(In late breaking news as seen is this New York Times article, Charlie’s parents today withdrew their legal appeal, ending their effort of prolonging the boy’s life.)

The case has been covered by everyone from the Telegraph to USA Today, with parents everywhere fueling the outcry. Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post essentially wrote, “I disagree with the parents’ decision to prolong his life, but I wholeheartedly agree it is their decision to make.” And in a case like this where there are no easy answers, that’s just as it should be.

So what are we learning from all of this?

The Numbers Haven’t Changed.

In 2010 a Zogby poll showed that more than 93% of all Americans agree that, absent evidence of abuse or neglect, parents have the right to make important decisions for their children. We don’t have an updated poll, but if the furor over Charlie Gard tells us anything, it is that the high level of support for parental rights hasn’t gone anywhere.

We Are United.

In that poll, more than 91% of Democrats, more than 93% of independents, and an amazing 97% of conservatives agreed with parental rights. As we look at the news media and opinion pieces about Charlie Gard all these years later, we are still seeing that same general divide—which is to say, almost none at all. There was disagreement over whether or not Charlie’s parents were making the right call—witness the Washington Post article mentioned above – but we almost all agree it must be their call to make.

We Don’t Want Charlie’s Situation Here.
Charlie himself we would welcome with open arms, along with his parents. Congress even passed a special bill last week to grant him permanent residence in the U.S. so that, in the event the Greater Ormond Street Hospital and the British judge let him leave London, he could come here for care with virtually no red tape on our end.

But the situation—judges deciding whether a severely ill child should live or die while fit and loving parents still cling to hope, however desperate—is not one we want to see on our shores. Multiple news articles have made the distinction between the European norm (the judge decides) and the U.S. standard (parents make that call).

In short, we are learning that we need the Parental Rights Amendment now more than ever. That’s because whatever takes hold in Europe, whether in legal, political, cultural, social, or even economic circles, has a tendency to make its way here eventually. And even now Charlie’s case is stirring elites in America to say, “We disagree with the parents’ (original) decision, so let’s give the choice to someone else instead.”

Already in America, some parents don’t even get that far. A couple in Oregon this month lost their second child to the state before they could even make it home from the hospital. They were not charged with abuse or accused of neglect. But because both parents are intellectually challenged, the state concluded – with no respect for the support network the young parents have in place—that they were simply incapable of raising a child. Already, judges are overruling parents because someone disagrees.

Clearly, we will not avoid this danger by doing nothing.

Only the Parental Rights Amendment can guarantee the liberty of parents to make the hard decisions for their children. Only the PRA can protect the once-sacred Supreme Court standard that parents enjoy a legal presumption that, absent evidence of abuse or neglect, “natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children” [Parham v. J. R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979)]. And it will also protect these rights for those who might otherwise lose their children due to a disability.

And there’s good news right around the corner on Capitol Hill. Our visits earlier this month yielded some exciting news, and we’re just ironing out the details before we can pass it on to you.

But we cannot continue the work alone. We rely on supporters like you passing the word about parental rights and the proposed Amendment to their family and friends. With your help in forwarding this email and asking your loved ones to sign up, we can build a strong and vocal army to defend parental rights.

Together we can keep what’s happening to Charlie from coming here—and correct those instances where it’s already taking place.

Thank you for standing with us to protect these precious children by empowering their parents to make the best decisions for their lives.


Michael Ramey
Director of Communications & Research

P.S. Many of you have recently given to continue our efforts, and we thank you for your support. But if you are not among them, would you please consider helping us carry this load? Only with your help can we defend and protect parents like Charlie’s, and like this couple in Oregon. Would you make your most generous donation today?

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  1. […] experts” who believe it’s in the girl’s “best interests” to just let her die. Just like Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans before […]