All Articles Tagged "unwanted children"
Getting Around Adoptions And Abortions: Is The Practice of Leaving Children In “Baby Boxes” Inhumane?
The recession’s financial hardships as well as the turbulent topic of women’s healthcare in the upcoming election can force a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy to make an irrational decision or no decision at all. Facing an unplanned pregnancy can quickly become a complicated process of emotions, values, the opinions of a partner and family influence and before a woman knows it, abortion may no longer be an option.
When I’ve lead discussion groups about pregnancy options, young women repeatedly cited one of two reasons for not choosing adoption: the fear of bodily changes and pain that comes with giving birth and not being able to live with the idea that somewhere in the world their child is growing up without them. In Europe, their practice of “baby boxes” may offer a solution for women who don’t believe in abortion, but feel they would be unable to handle the legality and complex process that comes with pursuing adoption. With it being National Baby Safety Month here, I thought this would be an interesting concept to share…
With Europe experiencing a debt crisis of their own, local charities are reporting a growth of young children and babies being abandoned throughout the region. As a response, Europe has increased the number of “baby hatches” throughout the country where babies can be left anonymously. This practice was once favored by immigrants, but is being increasingly taken advantage of by financially desperate members of the population. A baby hatch is a place where mothers who feel they are unable to properly care for their newborn can anonymously leave them so that they can be picked up by a “carer” or social worker. The hatches are heated and insulated and a sensor goes off to alert a caretaker to come retrieve the infant. Although the practice dates back to medieval times, since 2000, baby hatches have spread through Germany where they are known as Babyklappe (baby hatch or flap), Italy where they are known as Culla per la vita (life cradle) and in Mandarin Chinese as a “baby safety island.”
Historically, baby hatches were once used by women who had children out-of-wedlock, but today, they are a viable option for women who feel unable to handle the financial and emotional burden of becoming a mother. And for thousands of European women, the economic crisis has just gotten a bit too real. SOS Villages is a European charity whose purpose is to intervene for families experiencing financial hardships before abandonment starts to become an attractive option. The organization reports that last year, 1200 children in Greece, and 750 babies in Italy have been abandoned.
Baby hatches aren’t a practice that is specific just to Europe. In response to increasing situations where newborn babies were being abandoned in dumpsters and public restrooms, Pennsylvania created the “Safe Haven Law,” which allows a woman to leave a child in one of 270 hospitals as well as municipal facilities like police stations and firehouses. Children may be left with a staff member anonymously and won’t be asked questions unless the baby is injured or sick. For women who are especially anxious, some agencies even provide a crib for the child to be left in so the mother does not have to interact with anyone. In a world of IUD’s, emergency contraception and safe haven laws, there is no reason why children should be in situations where they are abandoned or neglected.
But many critics argue that baby hatches just give sexually irresponsible women an easy way out and they violate the human rights of a child to be loved and cared for by their parents. I mean, if a pregnancy can push an already financial fragile lifestyle to the point where you are choosing between feeding your child and yourself, you have to wonder why birth control isn’t a top priority.
Although some may say that baby hatches and safe haven laws deny a child the right to be loved and cared for by their birth parents, the sad truth is that the birth parents aren’t the best people to always care for a child. Camden mother Chevonne Thomas recently decapitated her son before killing herself while under the influence of marijuana and PCP. Thomas wasn’t ever exactly mother of the year after facing a charge of child endangerment when she left Zahree alone in a car. She was unable to remember where he was after “blacking out” high off drugs. Zahree was taken away but Thomas regained custody this past April. Not everyone that can carry a pregnancy should be a parent, but when abortion or adoption isn’t an option, children should still have a choice. We aren’t doing children any justice by forcing mothers on the clock who don’t want the job. Safe Haven laws and practices like it may have actually saved hundreds of “Zahrees” in a system that clearly failed one.
Do you think “baby hatches” do children a disservice?
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog Bullets and Blessings .
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