P. SELVARANI <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19
A system that has been successful in Europe to prevent the unnecessary deaths of infants from unwanted pregnancies, to be implemented in Malaysia?
Controversial as it may sound, a sociologist has suggested that the Government introduce ‘baby drop-hatches’ as a way to help unwed mothers to carry their children to term instead of aborting or abandoning the child.
"These ‘baby-drop’ centres have been successfully implemented in Europe and the United States (see accompanying story) as a way of helping young mothers, especially teenagers, from resorting to other drastic means of terminating their unwanted pregnancies," said Professor Dr Fatimah Daud of University Malaya’s department of anthropology and social studies.
Fatimah, who has personally seen such centres in Britain, said such baby-drop hatches could be set up at hospitals, mosques or other places where people frequent and these unwanted babies would be later handed over to the care of health or social workers."
It is a better alternative than having the young mother abort or dump the child in a garbage bin and leave the baby to die," she added.
Fatimah, who has done studies on teenage pregnancies, said teen pregnancies was a growing trend worldwide and Malaysia was no exception.
"In fact, in Europe, having babies by the age of 17 is quite normal now. We seem to be getting there as we see many girls as young as 15 becoming pregnant, probably due to our individualistic lifestyle where children are given more freedom to do as they please," she said, adding that the influence of the mass media and easy availability of pornography contributed to the problem. Her survey, undertaken several years ago among teenagers between 15 and 19 in the Klang Valley, showed that many were aware of the consequences of having sex out of wedlock and in most cases, they said they were lured by their boyfriends who were almost always married men.
"Upon discovering that they are pregnant, they would resort to unsafe means of aborting the foetus, including going to the bomoh to have the foetus aborted or even believing that a concoction of panadol and Coca Cola would help terminate the pregnancy! Others would go to private clinics, usually recommended by their partners who would also pay for the illegal abortions," she said.
Those who decide to carry the baby to full term would usually do it if they had arranged to give the child up for adoption to childless couples."Some, however, carry the child to term but end up abandoning the babies or throwing them in garbage dumps when they realise they cannot support the child by themselves as their partners who may have promised to marry them, go back on their word.
"Fatimah said some pregnant girls from rural areas who found themselves in the lurch after being abandoned by their boyfriends, escape to the cities where they get involved in vice activities such as prostitution, out of revenge.
In very rare cases, the families of these girls would accept their condition and give them the necessary support.
The survey revealed that teen pregnancies was highest among the Chinese, followed by the Malays and then the Indians.
How the ‘hatch’ works
THE baby drop-hatch, an alternative to abandonment or abortion, is available in several German cities where mothers can deliver an unwanted child anonymously through a small door in a hospital wall. Within one minute, health-care workers hear an alarm and retrieve the child.
In a report published by a Berlin journal in 2004, it said the hatch was an invention of a private organisation called Sternipark, in response to the discovery of a child, the fifth, abandoned in a garbage bin in 2000. Germany reports about 50 abandoned babies per year.
The drop-hatch contains a letter addressed to the woman in several languages, as well as means for identifying the child should the woman wish to learn news of, or reclaim the baby. If the mother does not contact the hospital, the baby is given up for adoption after eight weeks.
A Sternipark spokeswoman said that German hospitals are increasingly allowing the option of nameless child-bearing, an integral part of encouraging young women to carry their children to term rather than abort them.
Many abandoned children have signs that they were delivered at home, without assistance."When women call us to give birth anonymously, we can help them, advise them, encourage them before, during and after the birth. There is thus a much greater chance that these women finally decide to keep their babies," she said.
In another report from the United States last year, a fire chief had proposed designating Riverside County's 60 fire stations as places where parents can drop off unwanted babies.Under a state law that took effect Jan 1, 2001, parents could bring newborns up to 72 hours old to hospital emergency rooms and leave them without fear of arrest or prosecution, as long as the babies are unharmed.
The programme is patterned after a successful one in Los Angeles County that has taken in 32 babies since early 2002.He said mothers in the past, had abandoned babies outside businesses, in the hope someone would find them. A number of others have been tossed into trash bins and left to die.
What runs in my mind: Why dumping of babies happens? Why they are more willing to kill the baby or even dump the baby even without have a simple feelings will the baby survive?
I guess it is because the unwed moms finds that is the only way to escape out of the situation. It is more of the fear "how to face the situation", that was created by the elders and the circle of people.
Adding to it:
- There are no proper help and psychological guidance, all are ready to curse or dis-own them then helping them
- The current society once see a pregnant girl in such situation the perception changes the judgement made that she is guilty/bad ...etc, and she is disowned from the family, friends, relatives and society. Yes, no one want that to happen but once it happens should we disown her or give her care, protection, hope and solution?
- Should we out of our ego let the girls take a drastic step that may endanger her own life and the life of the baby?
- Should we step out of our narrow perception/thinking and start being open and encourage the girls in such situation to approach center that is established to help them?
- Change our law to allow mothers to drop their babies at designated center (best will be hospitals or any professional health care centers) without the mother being harassed and giving them legal clearance to allow them to drop the baby.
As I see now :
- There are no proper support centers that can help them
- There are no proper legal support
- There are no proper information on what to do. A failure at the policymakers part and the social workers.
- Some individual who wants to help could not as the system is mainly not there or clear.
I see there are no point to create a fear so that they don't get pregnant out of wedlock, but educate them. Be practical, sex happens between lovers. Many can deny it but generally it happens.
Education here can place a will power for some to say no to premarital sex. It will give them an alert in them to use a condom for the one who wants to have sex. Condom safe them in many ways, not only from unwanted pregnancy. This information's also should be openly available.
The same education also has to educate them in case they are pregnant, how to handle the situation and who they can talk to. If a religious center is appointed it may now work. You know what I mean. It should be a medical/health care centers on an option to be anonymous.
And there should be a clear and open process for the babies to be recorded and handed over to social workers.
I rather have the girls to drop they babies in the center then to drop the babies from the high rise buildings (like the recent case as per the picture below..I have to blur it as it was too gross).
Do you agree with me?