real life

Why don't we have baby hatches in Australia?

In Switzerland, if a mother wants to give her baby up and stay anonymous, she can.

The country has just opened its eighth baby hatch. It’s a hole in the wall, usually on the outside of a hospital, where a mother can leave a baby. The weight of the baby’s body will instantly activate a heating pad. After three minutes, an alarm will sound and a staff member will come and check on the baby. Healthy babies will go into foster care after a few days. After a year, if the mother hasn’t come forward to say she’s changed her mind, the child will be eligible for adoption.

In Switzerland, 16 babies have been left in hatches since the first one opened in 2001. Public support for them is high. Other European countries that have baby hatches include Austria, Germany, Belgium and Italy.

WATCH a demonstration of how a baby hatch works. Post continues after video….

But there are objectors. United Nations officials argue that children have the right to identify their parents and maintain relationships with them. A child psychologist with the UN, Maria Herczog, says baby hatches should be replaced with better family planning, counselling and support for unplanned pregnancies.

Meanwhile, Kevin Browne, a British academic who did a study into baby hatches, has brought up some other concerns.

“You also have to ask whether an anonymous drop allows the authorities to check whether there’s a chance for the baby to remain with its family in the care of other relatives.”

The idea of baby hatches was raised in Australia just over a year ago, following two tragic incidents in Sydney involving babies.

In the first, a baby boy was found crying at the bottom of a drain near a motorway in Quakers Hill. He was believed to have been dumped there days earlier. In the second incident, the body of a baby girl was found buried at Maroubra Beach. The baby’s identity was never discovered, but she was given a name, Lily Grace, and a funeral.

Image via iStock.

I had tears in my eyes when I read about those babies. I have no idea what either mother was going through. I don't have any experience of an unwanted pregnancy or of post-natal depression. I am not going to make any sweeping judgements.

All I know is how precious and vulnerable a baby is. If a mother feels the need to abandon her baby, and wants to do it anonymously, she should have the option of doing it, in a way that's safe for the baby.

No children should be with mothers who don't want them, or can't care for them.

Like so many other mums reading stories of neglected or abandoned babies who have suffered or died, I just wish I could hold those babies in my arms and give them all the love and care they need.

Yes, it's important for children to be able to identify their parents. Yes, there should be more family planning and counselling and support. But, for mothers in desperate circumstances, perhaps there should also be baby hatches.

Do you think baby hatches are a good idea?