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‘Baby boxes’ give new moms opportunity to do the right thing

More Canadian hospitals have installed baby boxes; places where an unwanted infant can be anonymously left in safety.
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Nevil Hunt, May 8, 2013 10:06:20 AM

Any young mother desperate enough to want to rid herself of her baby should be given the opportunity to leave the infant where it will be safe.

Two hospitals in Edmonton recently installed ‘baby boxes‘. The boxes include bassinets where an unwanted baby can be left for hospital staff. An alarm alerts the staff to the new arrival and the baby can be given a medical check-up and then put up for adoption.

Canada is a long way behind much of the Western world when it comes to these safe havens.

The Edmonton hospitals join one in B.C. as the only places with baby boxes in this country. St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver has had a box since 2010 but has received just one infant since then.

Despite the relatively low numbers in Vancouver, the boxes in Edmonton are still controversial. Some critics say their existence may make some young mothers think it’s OK to abandon their child.

An additional concern comes from a surprising source: The United Nations. Their Committee on the Rights of the Child says the anonymous nature of the boxes deprives each baby from knowing their parents; a right all children have under a UN convention.

Meanwhile supporters of the boxes include anti-abortion groups in the U.S. who tout the boxes as an alternative for women who don’t want to be mothers. A doctor who spoke with the CBC said the hospital boxes provide an important option for mothers who might instead abandon their baby where they are less likely to survive.

Given the weather conditions in much of this country for six months of the year, an infant stands little chance of survival if a desperate woman leaves a child outdoors. A safe, warm baby box at a hospital could be the difference between life and death for a newborn.

Clearly, no one should be a parent if they feel they aren’t ready. For a young woman who is dealing with an unwanted, possibly secret pregnancy, a baby box at a hospital offers an option that’s both safe for the baby and anonymous for mom.

The UN’s concern – while admirable – is misplaced. Surely there are thousands of children in the world who were born thanks to donated sperm. Few of those children will ever know who their biological father is, but each of those kids still has the opportunity to enjoy their lives and be loved by their adoptive parents.

Sometimes there is no perfect answer to a conundrum. In that case you must choose the better of two bad options. It would be great if every one of us knew both our biological parents, but that wish is not as important as survival.

It would be nice to live in a world where a baby box is never needed, but that’s not the case here on planet Earth. If anything, humankind needs more baby boxes, not fewer.

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Nevil Hunt

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