Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Newborn Abandoned At A Church

image On September 28th, at 2:16am a woman made a desperate decision, she abandoned her newborn child in front of a church.  The infant was discovered in the morning and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.  The police are currently seeking the mother because it is a class c felony to abandon a child in this way.

That is the jist of the story that I heard on the news, and later hunted down on the internet.  What caught my attention was everything that was not said in the media.  There was no conversation about the lack of good sex education in schools resulting in higher teen pregnancy rates.  Would this child even be alive to be abandoned had her mother effectively learned how to prevent pregnancy in the first place?

There was no discussion about the ways in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to get an abortion.  Some women have to travel an entire day to get access to a clinic.  There was no discussion that even for the women that have access to abortion sometimes the choice comes down to getting an abortion or paying rent or purchasing food?

Imagine how desperate this woman must have felt to leave her child in front of a church, hoping that she would be discovered before something serious happened to her.  This is what happens in a society where women are not given education about their bodies.  This is what happens when we reduce access to birth control, abortion and then fail to support the child after we have forced its existence into being.

When and if they find this young woman, she will be charged but how much of this situation are we all socially culpable of creating? In each step along the way patriarchy's desire to control women lead to her faithful decision. It is simply unfair to take all of the elements of choice away from a woman and then punish her taking one of the few options that was left open to her.  The child is healthy and I cannot see the benefit of punishing her other than to teach other women that they must accept motherhood on the states terms should they happen to become pregnant.

If we really want to stop things like this from happening we need to teach sex education in schools.  Birth control and abortion is something that should be freely available to all women.  The social slut shaming of young unmarried mothers has got to stop. Their bodies may bare witness to the sexual activity but they certainly did not get pregnant by themselves. For those that decide that they want to follow through with the pregnancy socially we need to take a more communal approach to raising children.  We cannot force women to have children and then do nothing to help raise that child. 

I hope that they never find her.  She made a very difficult decision that morning.  Her child is safe and healthy and her privacy deserves to be respected. 


26 comments:

ottermatic said...

Seriously. Why the hell is this a felony? It's not enough that they insist we carry children to term, but now we have to raise them, too, or go to jail? Just absurd.

In some US states there are "Safe Haven" laws where hospitals, churches, police stations, and fire stations serve as 24-hour baby surrendering locations. The police station around the corner from our house is just such a place. The mother can surrender the baby, no hassle, no questions asked. This was in response to a few well publicized cases of young white women leaving their babies to die in dumpsters.

I like the safe haven laws. I hope they never find this child's mother either, but I hope she finds some peace.

SD said...

Hi Renee, just wanted to say thanks for the stumble. I read your writing regularly and love it. I'm mainly a lurker though :-)

Anonymous said...

Ohh now I see.... The problem is that she didn't have the education to know that penis + vagina = baby.

Please...

To ottermatic

She could face jail time because the baby could have died. That's the risk of leaving a child alone in front of a building for hours. That's why it is a felony.

"It's not enough that they insist we carry children to term, but now we have to raise them, too, or go to jail? Just absurd. "

She could have simply given the child up for adoption. Which is what is going to happen anyway. Why is it too much to ask that she do this at the hospital as opposed to leaving the child on the street. I am of course assuming that she didn't deliver the kid in her closet.

The Link Back Project said...

I am sorry, but as a parent of 10, I hope they catch her, and convict her. Her crime was leaving the baby in front of the church, out in the elements. What if it froze to death, or a passing feral animal got to it. If I was judge and jury, it would be attempted murder. Don't use activism as a justification, or excuse for criminal acts.

Sorry for the dissent, but as a Father/parent, someone has to defend the child, and chide the criminal.

She could have went to any fire station, any police station, any hospital, or public office of infrastructure, to give the baby to a civil servant. And NO, that tired old whift of "Then they put you in jail" is, and always has been a lie. To leave the child out in the open air to fend for itself shows exactly what kind of mother she was, and the child is now better off without her.

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

Men abandon their children every day, simply by denying they are fathers or acting like fathers, they are not charged with felonies.

I hope they never "catch" (more like expose and tar and feather is what they really want to do) her.

I've been trying to write a post for weeks now about Safe Haven laws. They don't work. I've been collecting several links.

The Link Back Project said...

@Kitty...

You said..."Men abandon their children every day, simply by denying they are fathers or acting like fathers, they are not charged with felonies."

So that situation is the exact same, as abandoning a 12 hour old child, in the elements of possible, rain, or snow, or intense heat? Overnight, where feral animals can get a hold of it? (Read the article Washington. Strange weather patterns, and heavily forested, so yes, feral, as well as natural habit wildlife to enter the human living areas.) Or the possibility of a sexual predator finding it, and doing who knows what with it? Rape? Murder?

If man bashing is the cure to what I just wrote above, then c-ya, this thread is dead to me. I will comment elsewhere.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

I agree, I hope they never find her. I also agree that her privacy deserves to be respected.

lyndorr said...

All these what ifs. Fact is this wasn't in the freezing cold of January.
It is quite a difference of charging a woman with a felony and a man with nothing. Men who leave before the birth are trusting the woman will take care of the baby. They aren't making sure the baby is safe. But of course they aren't looking for the father of this baby.
And I mean she left the baby at a CHURCH, not somewhere where no one would ever find it.

Anonymous said...

To lyndorr:

I believe you are missing the point entirely. If a man had left a baby on the steps by itself for hours I would %100 say that he should be charged the same way that this woman should be charged. I know this is dangerous to say on a feminist blog, but in THIS case gender is NOT the issue.

Is there any circumstance under which you will say a woman is wrong?

Anonymous said...

Who's to say the mother wasn't watching the baby from a distance to make sure she was safe until someone came along?

And yeah, if she's arrested, the father should be arrested as well for abondonment. He knew he could get her pregnant. He knew she may give birth. If he didn't follow up with her to see if she got pregnant and see if she got an abortion, then he's as responsible for that life as she is.

Anonymous said...

Everyone who's saying this young woman should be charged with a crime is making me angry. If she had left the baby in a dumpster or somewhere else that indicated the baby was probably not intended to be found, then maybe I would understand your point of view better.

But that isn't what happened. For Christ's sake, she left the baby AT A CHURCH. She was hoping someone would find the baby and take care of it! Maybe she even believed that the Church WAS one of those locations where you could surrender a baby with no consequences and that all she had to do was leave it there. Maybe she was, like another poster suggested, secretly watching until someone took the baby. Or she could have been in a desperate situation, not thinking clearly or considering what COULD possibly happen, and just decided that the best thing for her and her baby would be to leave the baby somewhere she knew people would find it.

And to the person who said she could have just gone to any police or fire station, you don't know that. Did she live somewhere with a "Safe Haven" law?

Anonymous said...

@LBP

We're talking about babies, not a game of hot potato. The father abandoned the child with its mother, assuming she would take care of everything. The mother abandoned the child with the church, assuming they would take care of everything. But the parent who's caught holding it last is the one who gets in trouble, hey? Which, conveniently, will be the woman in 99% of cases, since the man gets a 9 month head start.

Abandoning babies is one of the traditional ways to get rid of 'em when you can't take care of 'em. That and infanticide. They've both been going on since before anyone can remember. This isn't a new development that came out of nowhere; it's a natural result of not having much in the way of other options. How was she supposed to know what places it is and isn't OK to leave her kid, when the rules are counterintuitive? Churches are filled with caring, compassionate people who like babies, and were the #1 place to safely abandon babies for centuries. Compare to "fire hall" and "emergency ward", both of which are filled with busy professionals trying to prevent other people from dying. You would think a baby would get in the way, there, no? If I was a panicked new mom not privy to this kind of info, I'd pick the church too.

(@ anon above:
"However, police said someone can legally turn over a baby or other dependant to qualified personnel, such as emergency medical technicians at a hospital or open fire station, without identifying themselves.")

Anonymous said...

As long as we are making silly assumptions, how do you people know that the father abandoned the child? Supposed this woman kidnapped the child and left it at the church.

While I admit that the above scenario is very unlikely, my point is that we do not know the circumstance. As such on face value leaving a child alone in front of a building for hours is wrong.

Danny said...

Why are people trying to drag the father into this when Renee didn't even mention him? This is about about the "choices" that these women have, not a breeding ground for anti-male hatred.

If he were there and tried to stop her from leaving the child most of you anons would have been crying about him trying to override notion of "her body, her choice".

Jana said...

Anonymous,

"Ohh now I see.... The problem is that she didn't have the education to know that penis + vagina = baby" This is incredibly telling of your attitude of women as sexual gatekeepers.What if she was raped? Equation still valid?

"She could have simply given the child up for adoption."

Have you ever given a child up for adoption? What's simple about it? The exploitation? The people judging you?

I'm sure you're a pro at the judging anyway...

Anonymous said...

To Jana:

"Ohh now I see.... The problem is that she didn't have the education to know that penis + vagina = baby" This is incredibly telling of your attitude of women as sexual gatekeepers.What if she was raped? Equation still valid?

In the original post Renee said:

"This is what happens in a society where women are not given education about their bodies."

Which is why I responded with the equation above. This isn't the 1920's, who doesn't know that sperm + egg = baby.

"Have you ever given a child up for adoption? What's simple about it? The exploitation?"

Exploitation? You think giving a baby you don't want to someone who does want it is exploitation? That's a strange view.

"The people judging you?" Do you think people will judge her less harshly for leaving a baby on a doorstep by itself for hours?

Liz said...

Wow. The comment threads on your posts never cease to amaze me with the irony. You write a post about how harsh judgment from strangers and a lack of alternative choices put this woman in a terrible situation where she had to find a way to give up her child while avoiding the shame of it, and a bunch of strangers come in to shame and judge her. I really hope they don't find her. It's the pressure from people like that which causes these things. If the man involved had given a crap about what he helped cause, if she had access to reliable birth control, if she had access to abortion services, if she could have gone through the adoption procedures without having to deal with the slut-shaming, privacy-invading bureaucracy this might not have happened. Basically, if people would stop punishing women for having sex - this wouldn't happen. That is what it all boils down to. How dare she subvert the patriarchal authority to shame and demean her for her sexuality.

Danny said...

I really hope they don't find her. It's the pressure from people like that which causes these things.
So what you're saying is that she had absolutely no safe options for giving up that child?


According to the link in the post:
However, police said someone can legally turn over a baby or other dependant to qualified personnel, such as emergency medical technicians at a hospital or open fire station, without identifying themselves.


How dare she subvert the patriarchal authority to shame and demean her for her sexuality.
So its the fault of men and the patriarchy that she left that child like that right? The ability to legally abandon the child with no legal precussions is meant to shame her into submission right? And I love how people just assume the father ran out on her.

Liz said...

She obviously didn't know those options were available. Are you saying she knew she could just give the baby to emergency personnel without harassment and just decided it was a better idea to risk it's life? That's ridiculous. She left it in front of a church. She expected that was the safest way to get the child to people who could care for it. As for the man - where was he then? Are you saying he offered to take care of it but she just decided to take it and leave it on the church steps? That's really ridiculous. The fact that she dropped the child off at the church proves that the man involved had taken no responsibility.

It isn't possible for a woman to just drop off a child with the man who helped her create it and walk away with no responsibility, but a man can just leave and the woman would have to go through the effort to attain a paternity test - being slut shamed for "not knowing who the father is" the whole way - to get him to admit to his participation in the event and help to raise the child. Why is the media lumping all the blame on her when he is just as responsible? He abandoned the child at least 9 months before she did.

The Link Back Project said...

I said I wouldn't comment, but the male hate, and the lack of respect for human life just compels me...

I guess "Feminism" TRULY IS all about male hate. And to think, I was almost convinced it wasn't, thank goodness I got to see this!

And thank God I love MY DAUGHTERS enough to have NEVER tossed them into the street at 12 hours old.

Ooops.. I forgot, that is because I am a "Human", and not an "Animal".

Hows that for an opinion for ya's!

Renee said...

@LBP pointing out that there is an absence of a father is not an expression of male hate. This young woman did not get pregnant by herself and therefore is there is blame to laid he is equally responsible.

Danny said...

Are you saying he offered to take care of it but she just decided to take it and leave it on the church steps? That's really ridiculous. The fact that she dropped the child off at the church proves that the man involved had taken no responsibility.
No I'm saying I want to know where he is so that we can find out his side of this. I'm not ready to say he innocent nor say he is guilty when he is not in the story we are given. Now if it comes up that he ran out on her then go after him too but if she made this decision without him then why should he be held responsible? So its ridiculous for me to want to know where the father is this before rendering an opinion but its insightful commentary to assume he ran out right?


It isn't possible for a woman to just drop off a child with the man who helped her create it and walk away with no responsibility,...
Yeah right. So those occasional stories of dads losing custody of children to the state after moms abandon them are just made up right?


...but a man can just leave and the woman would have to go through the effort to attain a paternity test.
Yet for some reason it almost takes an act of divine intervention for a man to get a paternity test for verification.


Why is the media lumping all the blame on her when he is just as responsible?
Why does the media usually not talk about the father until its time to calculate child support or press charges even when he is actively trying to step to the plate and be responsible?

He abandoned the child at least 9 months before she did.
And where is that in the article Renee linked to in the post?


I guess "Feminism" TRULY IS all about male hate. And to think, I was almost convinced it wasn't, thank goodness I got to see this!
Please don't be that way. There most certainly are variants of feminism that are about male hate but to just write off all of feminism like that isn't right.

Anonymous said...

However, police said someone can legally turn over a baby or other dependant to qualified personnel, such as emergency medical technicians at a hospital or open fire station, without identifying themselves.

My state has had a safe haven law for over a decade, much like the one above, and it doesn't work nor have baby dumpings decreased. Here, the law doesn't work because after the child has been surrendered to the proper authorities, CPS steps in and (many times claiming they only want important genetic information) attempts to not only identify the mother but have her arrested for child abandonment despite the clear intent of the law NOT to do so. Which, of course, dissuades women from safely surrendering their babies and causes them to dump them in places where they are not easily found generally resulting in the baby's death.

Since the baby is obstensibly safe in this circumstance, I too hope they never identify her. We will reap what we sow. The repressive policies based on specious religious ideologies that purposely create barriers to accurate sexual information, contraception and abortion for all women, not just teens, will continue to ensure that things like this will continue to happen.

The Link Back Project said...

@Renee...

Then lets bring this whole conversation all the way down to both of our front doorsteps!

Would you place one of your children at the doorstep of a church, at 2 am in the morning, 12 hours old? No dancing... Just yes, or no...

Parent to Parent...

Father to Mother...

Who cares what these commenters say or think, it is not them that have to look into the eyes of our children when they laugh or cry...

We would both give our lives up in a second to save our children, that is a gimmie, no need to discuss our values.

Me: No.
You:?

Renee said...

@LBP your question is unfair. I love by boys with every fiber of my being and would do anything for them. They are the absolute light of my life. That said I am also in an extremely secure relationship (18 + years) own my own home, am gainfully employed and have lots of support. I exist with a ton of privilege. It is not fair for me to compare myself to a scared teenager who does not have the advantages that I do. Frankly I won't do it. You never know what you will do until you are thrust into a specific situation. If I thought that my children would be better off without me I would let them go. I am fortunate to be in a situation where I can provide for all of their needs and a few of their wants and that is quickly becoming a rarity globally. It takes 125k to raise a child to adulthood not many have access to that kind of many anymore.

The Link Back Project said...

@Renee...

Sadly enough, you would make a great politician!

Ok, I will get back to the newer threads...