The right to be abandoned?

baby hatchThis is a so-called “Window of Life”, or, less prosaic, a baby hatch in Warsaw, Poland. There are about a hundred or so in eleven European countries, and in the past decade they have saved the lives of about 500 babies, CNS reports.

But he UN Committee on the Rights of the Child wants them closed, because they violate the rights of the child to know his or her parents and to preserve his or her identity.

The baby hatches were installed to help mothers who, for some reason, could or would not take care of their newborn children, without endangering those same children. For some mothers, even a hospital is too frightening or seemingly dangerous a place to bring their child, and some would resort to leaving their children somewhere outside. In the ideal situation, this would be in a place where the child would soon be found and taken care off, but it is all to conceivable that this was not always the case. The baby hatches are places where the children can be left without the mother being known.

They do not solve the problem of mothers abandoning their child. They merely look out for the child’s safety, providing a warm shelter for the short time that the child is alone, and people to take care of him or her afterwards.

Are rights being violated? Perhaps, but not by the sisters taking care of the babies. By the mothers then? Perhaps so, but in most cases there will be extenuating circumstances. Simply looking at the facts of these cases – a mother is unable or unwilling to care for her baby and is looking to leave it in the care of someone else, without going through the proper channels of, say, adoption – it is clear that the baby hatches are the best option for the babies. It protects them from weather and other dangers, not to mention the chance of not being found until it is too late.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is simply wrong. Sure, a child has every right to know his or her parents and to be part of a loving family. But when parents or family are lacking, should these rights be preserved over a child’s immediate safety? I would think not.

The baby hatches, and the (often religious) organisations staffing them, are a form of charity in difficult situations, and they should be dismantled the moment they are no longer necessary. But for now, they sadly are necessary.

Photo credit: CNS/Jonathan Luxmoore

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