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Baby hatches turn 10 amid calls for closure
Photo: DPA

Baby hatches turn 10 amid calls for closure

Published: 08 Apr 2010 15:38 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Apr 2010 15:38 GMT+02:00

The first of Germany’s baby hatches, which allow mothers to give up their children anonymously, celebrated its 10th anniversary on Thursday amid continued debate over ethical questions they raise.

There are some 80 such Babyklappen across the nation, set up to provide parents with a safe and legal way to surrender newborn infants for adoption. The idea, which dates back to medieval Catholic churches, was instituted in Hamburg by the Sternipark charity organisation on April 8, 2000 to help prevent infanticide in reaction to the discovery of a dead infant at a recycling centre.

“If we save even one child, our work has been worth it,” leader of the Sternipark project Findelbaby Leila Moyisch told news agency DPA.

Thirty-eight babies have been left in the organisation’s two baby hatches since 2000. Of these, 14 mothers have returned to reclaim their children, and the number of abandoned or killed babies has dropped in the city, Moyisch said.

The organisation’s motto is: “No questions, no witnesses, no police.”

But critics say that the presence of baby hatches has not actually reduced infanticide in Germany and takes away a child’s right to know its origins.

“If you take a sober look, the number has not gone down nationwide,” said Michael Heuer, spokesperson for the German arm of child rights organisation Terre des Hommes.

An estimated 30 to 40 babies die each year in Germany due to abandonment or infanticide. This number is believed to be relatively constant, though exact numbers are hard to define because infanticide no longer appears as an offence in the country’s criminal statistics.

“Baby hatches seem to be a choice that has not reached its target group,” said Heuer, explaining that most women who kill their infants are acting out of panic and would not make the rational decision to safely deposit their child at a nearby hospital.

President of Germany’s DKSB children’s protection federation Heinz Hilgers said he favoured closing the baby hatches “in principle,” if something “practical” were to take their place.

“We want lawmakers to make the so-called anonymous birth possible,” he said.

But Moyisch of Hamburg’s Sternipark organisation argued that the life of a child is more important than their family history or ethical questions.

“The right to life comes before the right to heritage,” she said.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

16:03 April 8, 2010 by William Thirteen
do they pick the babies up every two weeks or every month?
19:13 April 8, 2010 by Bushdiver
I'd say it's better to have this option available than to have some idiot throw the unwanted child in the dumpster.
20:26 April 8, 2010 by dbert4
What's unethical about saving the lives of babies?
06:43 April 9, 2010 by Thames
@william thirteen

Not funny. The lives of children is a serious matter.
10:20 April 9, 2010 by dcgi
@dbert4: I think the argument against this service is that the mother is allowed to deny all responsibility for the baby, when you think about it they have a point that should be considered.. after so many weeks you cannot legally get an abortion so why after the baby is born should you just be allowed to dump it off onto someone else and walk away? Some would say they shouldn't just be allowed to shun the help that is out there through counseling, social services etc.

The other point I think they raise is that such a service like this sets a dangerous precedence, some would see that it effectively lowers our moral standards and that justifications like "well infantcide will always happen, we're providing a safety net" is not a reasonable justification.

I also remember hearing a news story about the lack of effectiveness of the service in that there have still been cases of infanticide despite it being available. I can't quote you any stats, but I agree it would be really good to know if it's actually effective at saving lives or not, rather than assuming it is or sensationalising it with statements like "if it saves even one it's worth it".

Food for thought.
21:03 April 9, 2010 by cobalisk
@DCGI

I would recommend examining practical matters rather than moralistic or hypothetical ones in a case like this. Actual analysis of infant mortality rates combined with case studies of the children put in baby hatches will prove if they are effective or not.

Claiming baby hatches 'lower our moral standards' is actually backwards. They enhance our moral standards because we the society claim that saving the life is most precious and now provide a means to allow someone who has no interest in their child to give it a fighting chance for adoption rather than abandonment or mistreatment. If a society is going to stand on principle the principle of 'all are equal and valued' is a hell of a lot more morally defensible than 'self-reliance'.
05:13 April 10, 2010 by amperrymd
"Infanticide no longer appears as an offence in the country¦#39;s criminal statistics." What could be the significance of this statement?

Is killing a baby in Germany not considered a crime?
06:56 April 10, 2010 by Midnightpromises
Another one of those dysfunctional American ideas that has been imported?
19:57 April 10, 2010 by JackieSixty
@Midnightpromises,

no, it is not another one of those "dysfunctional American" ideas; as was clearly stated in the article, the concept of the baby hatch was first put in to practice by medieval Catholic churches.

Reading is fundamental, try it.
22:06 April 10, 2010 by wenddiver
@jackiesicty- That would make it a dysfunctional european idea, if we where impolite or just a European idea.

We shouldn't reject it, just because we didn't invent it. Probably better than chopping the baby up in an abortion or throwing it in a dumpster like a drugo.
14:57 April 11, 2010 by beeker
In 2008 Nebraska, USA passed a similar law that allowed parents to turn in children at any hospital. The Legislators neglected to put an age range in the wording. Don't know how many lives it saved, but one man turned in his 9 kids aged 1 to 17. People drove from other states to turn in their "problem" teens.

All 50 states have a safe haven law, but abondoned and killed babies are still found. Statistics would be hard to quantifiy, but one life saved is better than none.
15:48 April 13, 2010 by wenddiver
Good way to get rid of Gitmo derainees, sedate, strip naked, put disposable diaper on, shove thru baby hatch, run like hell.
17:40 April 14, 2010 by Hebbellover
@Thames - "Not funny. The lives of children is a serious matter."

I Would agree, however, where is the same concern for the unborn?
06:27 April 15, 2010 by wenddiver
You guys ever think of making the baby ejection seats out of something a little more baby friendly than hard stainless steel with-out bumpered edges?
14:22 January 26, 2011 by KAZRCRW
Hm

@DCGI

@dbert4

Can anyone send me the link for the statistic.. that infants. in germany is actually not goes down in nationwide?
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