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.