‘Safe Surrender’ And ‘Baby Hatch’ Programs Save Children’s Lives, There Should Be No Debate

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Safe SurrenderIt is a heartbreaking reality that most people don’t like to think about. Sometimes, people who are not emotionally or financially prepared to raise children still get pregnant. While most of us are lucky to have support systems and resources, there are some mothers who feel alone and lost with the prospect of raising a child. And there are times when these desperate parents do truly unimaginable things out of fear and hopelessness.

That’s why I’m thankful for programs like “Safe Surrender” here in the US. That’s why I think the “Baby Hatch” program in Europe serves a necessary purpose. And the only proof I need are stories like that of a two-week-old baby girl who was saved by a dog under a bridge in Ghana. The animal stayed with the infant and kept her warm until someone found them.

Safe Surrender is a program in many states that allows new parents to take their infants to a fire station without the threat of child abandonment charges. Europe’s baby hatches operate in much the same way, providing incubators where parents can leave infants without prosecution. Just this weekend, a child was surrendered at a San Diego fire station. And there are estimates that over 400 infants have been left in baby hatches since 2000.

Except the program has come under critique in Europe, most notably from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of a Child. They say that infanticide rates haven’t gone down since the introduction of the program, possibly showing that people who will abandon their babies under bridges will do so whether there’s an alternative or not. And, they call the program a distraction from comprehensive sets of policies that could be more beneficial. “The incubator programme, though indirectly, sends out the mistaken message to pregnant women in crisis that they are right to continue with hiding their pregnancies, giving birth under uncontrolled circumstances, and then abandoning their babies anonymously, losing the possibility to connect with them again,” said Maria Herczog, a sociologist and member of the UN Children’s Rights Committee.

I have to say, I don’t think that anything could send out the message to that mothers are “right’ to abandon their kids. We have to acknowledge that this is a desperate and hopeless act. Anything is better than the alternative choices for parents in these situations.

Even if a parent wouldn’t leave their baby for dead under a bridge, if they’re considering abandoning them, this person is obviously not ready for children. Think about the life that would await this child with their biological parents. Think about all the tough choices we have to make as parents, all the things we have to give up in exchange for raising happy and healthy kids. Is a person who would give up their infant really prepared or capable to make those decisions? I would argue, probably not. I think those kids get the chance at a better life through adoption by loving families who really want to raise a child.

I agree that we need to do more as a society to support and educate new parents. The success stories for programs that give parenting classes to at-risk moms and dads are inspiring. But I don’t think that having Safe Surrender or Baby Hatch programs distract from that. It doesn’t need to be an either/or situation. If those programs keep one child from being left in a garbage can or under a bridge, they are a success. They are important. They put the needs of the children first, and that’s what we should be focused on.