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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Germany mulls secret births
baby
Baby boxes, where mothers can leave unwanted infants, have been seen as a success
Pregnant women in Germany who do not want their babies would be able to deliver them anonymously under a new law drafted by the country's main political parties.

The bill sanctioning anonymous births was meant to be put to parliament on Friday, but a decision has now been delayed due to mounting pressure from critics of the proposal.

Advocates of the bill argue that allowing secret births in hospital could stop despairing women from giving birth alone, and sometimes abandoning their infant.

Teenagers who have hidden their pregnancies and illegal immigrants without the papers needed for medical treatment are among those who could benefit from the change.


Women are already giving birth anonymously in the most deprived of circumstances - including toilets and woods - we want simply to offer a warm, safe and hygienic place to do so

Meral Burul
Political researcher
An average of 40 babies are found abandoned on the streets of Germany each year, half of whom have died of exposure by the time they are found.

"In fact we reckon the number might be more like 1,000, as many of these infants who are left are never found, or never reported," political researcher Meral Burul, who helped draw up the bill, told BBC News Online.

The women making use of the service would have eight weeks to reclaim their child, before was is put up for adoption.

They could also, if they wished, leave a message for the child explaining why they were put up for adoption.

The draft law would also legalise the use of "Babyklappe" in Germany, a heated nest in the walls of hospitals where mothers can abandon their unwanted offspring, which have been already been set up in several German cities.

Safe and warm

The idea has drawn support from across the spectrum, from Catholics who see it as a way to reduce the number of abortions, and social libertarians who feel that women should have the right to abandon their child in a safe environment.


We're not looking at the reasons for why this situation occurs

Social Democrat MP
Margot von Renesse
MP
But it has drawn fire from those who claim it will encourage pregnant women to abdicate their responsibilities as parents and abandon their children.

"There is no evidence to suggest that anonymous births and baby boxes can save lives," said Michael Heuer of the children's organisation Terre des Hommes.

"Not only do we feel that it's not right women can give up their responsibilities so quickly, we also worry that women will be pressurised by partners or family into handing their baby over or delivering it anonymously."

Some politicians within the ruling Social Democrats are also unhappy with the bill. "We're not looking at the reasons for why this situation occurs," said Margot von Renesse, MP.

Proponents of the bill agree that the root causes of why women abandon their children need to be tackled.

"But this for the moment is about concrete facts," says Ms Burul.

"Women are already giving birth anonymously in the most deprived of circumstances - including toilets and woods. We are simply offering a warm, safe and hygienic place to do so."

See also:

14 Aug 98 | Europe
The babies of Italy's bins
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