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UN committee pushes for Europe to ban ‘baby boxes’

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

Human rights advocates currently have their sights set on eliminating blind drop-off areas for abandoned children in Europe, according to news reports.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is pushing for the European Parliament to ban “baby boxes,” or small hospital incubators, that can be opened from the outside of the building, where parents can leave their unwanted children.

When somebody drops off a child, a motion detector sounds an alarm two minutes later to alert the hospital of the new infant’s presence.

“The mother has enough time to leave without anyone seeing her,” German pastor Gabriele Stangl told The Associated Press. “The important thing is that her baby is now in a safe place.”

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child believe the boxes are a violation of the rights of the child and send a bad message to parents who could get help from the state, according to an AP report.

“Instead of providing help and addressing some of the social problems and poverty behind these situations, we’re telling people they can just leave their baby and run away,” Maria Herczog, a Hungarian child psychologist on the committee told the AP.

Currently, by U.N. estimates, 11 European nations are ignoring the the technically illegal easy-out for parents. The AP reports there are about 100 boxes in Germany. Poland and the Czech Republic each boast about 40. Italy, Lithuania, Russia and Slovakia have about ten each, Switzerland has two, Belgium has one, and another box is in the works in the Netherlands. It is estimated that one to two children are left in each box annually.

“It’s paradoxical that it’s OK for women to give up their babies by putting them in a box, but if they were to have them in a hospital and walk away, that’s a crime,” Herczog told the AP, adding that it also offers those other than the mother a way out of a sticky situation — with those who might be exploiting the mother able to leave a child behind.

Proponents of “baby boxes” say they save lives.

“The primary aim of baby hatches, which (have) already saved hundreds of newborns, is to protect their right to life and protect their human rights,” the AP quoted a letter to the U.N committee expressing disagreement with the committee’s objectives, signed by more than 24 Czech politicians.

While the U.N. pushes against “baby boxes,” some countries already allow mothers to give birth anonymously and put the baby up for adoption. Germany is considering implementing such an option.

“The issue is very delicate and controversial; different economic and social grounds may lead mothers to abandon their baby,” Cristina Tango, a children’s rights assistant at the International Reference Center for the Rights of Children Deprived of their Family, told the Jewish World review. “These women are, in general, victims of a lack of adequate social networks and state public services. In the absence of such services, these boxes are a plausible solution to ensure the child’s survival and guarantee women’s rights.”

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