I sometimes have fantasies that this is a good idea…that I should personally be allowed to determine who has children and at what age it’s appropriate for them.
However, that’s the just the FIRST part of the problem: someone has to make those decisions. Who should we entrust with them? Who would you like to put in charge of determining when YOU have children? It’s an impossible task to try to designate someone appropriate.
Then there’s the issue of basically being charged with a crime before you commit it. You can’t prevent someone from buying a car because they MIGHT get into an accident at some point. By the same token, you never know what kind of a parent someone will make until they actually have children. Granted, I sometimes think I can point at someone and proclaim them the “Poster Child for Planned Parenthood.”
But the fact is, you don’t get your driver’s license revoked UNTIL you prove yourself to be a crappy/drunken/loser of a driver. This “innocent until proven guilty” principle is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, I believe. And even though they often work poorly, we do have means of keeping poor parent from parenting…we have abuse laws, child welfare agencies, foster parents, and so on. It DOES seem sad that we have to wait until a child has been abused or neglected before taking action, but there’s really no other way to go about it.
Also consider, that it’s debatable at what age the CHILD is actually responsible for his/her own actions. There are good parents who end up with criminal sons and daughters. There are also bad parents who end up with honor roll students. There’s no way to pre-determine whether you’re punishing the former or the latter.
You bring up another issue yourself: enforceability. Forced abortions? Not in my lifetime! Fines for parenting? Seems like reduced income would only be another detriment to the child.
I DO think it’s a great idea to have parenting classes and other information widely available to parents. The problem is that even if you DO mandate some kind of parental education, lousy parents aren’t going to get anything out of it, even if they are perfect attendees.