Neonaticide Is On The Decline & Safe Havens For Desperate Moms Might Have Something To Do With It

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Here’s something we can all be happy about. Fewer newborns in Austria are dying at the hands of their mothers — also known as neonaticide. And some very admirable safe haven laws — which allow desperate mothers to anonymously leave their newborns — has experts feeling pretty good about that particular dip in newborn deaths.

Reuters reports that a study, which reveals a 57 percent drop in neonaticides (that’s 3.1 per 100,000 births), doesn’t necessarily prove that the law is working. But ever since Austria put the law into place in 2001, newborn deaths have been on the decline:

“We assume the law gives women who are desperate, who deny their pregnancy, who become aware of the pregnancy too late or experience denial in the first two trimesters a chance to get out of the situation,” Claudia Klier, an author of the study, told Reuters Health. “This gives them a solution.”…Still, the authors said they could identify no other “socioeconomic or policy changes in Austria that could be associated with the observed decrease, such as the passage of abortion laws or changes regarding childbirth benefits.”

While Austria has maintained this law, the rates of neonaticide have reportedly “held steady” in both Sweden and Finland where desperate mothers have no such options.

According to these same researchers, we have a little data about the effectiveness of safe haven laws — both abroad and here in the United States. But what we do know looks pretty promising. Thirty to 40 woman use Austria’s anonymous safe haven law every year, which put a dent in that original Austrian neotaticide rate of 7.2 per 100,000 births.

Researchers boiled down the common factors of neonaticide to the following trio: a history of trauma, troubled relationships, and a denial of the pregnancy. Some previous research in France also highlighted that women who leave their babies in hospital do consider harming the baby while it is in utero as well.

An associate professor of clinical psychiatry and pediatrics, Susan Hatters Friedman, says that neonaticide is “really underestimated” adding morbidly that “If a woman can hide the pregnancy, she can hide the body.”

But with more safe haven laws like these, perhaps these women will no longer have to entertain such grim thoughts.

(photo: Zurijeta / Shutterstock)