Join 3,440 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A difficult decision.
June 26, 2012 9:49 AM   Subscribe

"Boxes where parents can leave an unwanted baby, common in medieval Europe, have been making a comeback over the last 10 years. Supporters say a heated box, monitored by nurses, is better for babies than abandonment on the street - but the UN says it violates the rights of the child."

There are more arguments than just that it may "violate the rights of the child." From the article: "The critics say that baby boxes may be used by unscrupulous fathers or even controllers of prostitutes to put pressure on mothers to dispose of an unwanted baby."

In the US, there are Safe Haven laws where the mother drops the infant off in person but does not have to give any information. From the Safe Haven site: ""Baby Safe Haven" laws or infant abandonment laws were created to remove the potential for prosecution so long as children were given unharmed and given to proper authorities. Since the first law was adopted in Texas in 1999, each state across the US has enacted a Safe Haven law. While each state's law is different, they all ensure the safety of newborn infants and the protection of parents who decide to properly relinquish their child."
posted by sio42 (121 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
My wife is about a month away from giving birth. I keep asking people I talk to about the impending birth what they know about the Safe Haven laws in our state. They don't find it as funny as I do.
posted by OmieWise at 9:51 AM on June 26, 2012 [60 favorites]


"The critics say that baby boxes may be used by unscrupulous fathers or even controllers of prostitutes to put pressure on mothers to dispose of an unwanted baby."


Sincere question: Is this a situation where having boxes like these will encourage people to abandon babies when they otherwise wouldn't, or are they simply responding to something that "unscurpulous fathers" and "controllers of prostitutes" will do anyway regardless of the safety of the baby?

It would seem to me that it's the latter, but I don't know anything about it so I'm wondering if anyone knows of data on this.
posted by shmegegge at 9:55 AM on June 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


"The critics say that baby boxes may be used by unscrupulous fathers or even controllers of prostitutes to put pressure on mothers to dispose of an unwanted baby."

Because Lord knows we want to force these specific people into rearing children.
posted by Xoebe at 9:58 AM on June 26, 2012 [90 favorites]


I'm glad I bookmarked this link - now I have something to balance me out if I ever become so cheerful and optimistic that it starts annoying people. :-\
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:59 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mother was a profession of irrational fears. No matter what you were doing there was always a tragic result possible.

Once day, I was going to swerve the car to hit a small box. She yells out, "Don't hit that box! There could be a baby in there!" Her point was I had no idea. It could have been bricks or nails or kittens. Something that could ruin my car or my day, but what came out was "baby!"

Now I can't pass a box on the street without wondering if there is a baby in it. It's kind of like Schrödinger's baby. Now I find out sometimes there actually could be a baby in there?
posted by cjorgensen at 10:03 AM on June 26, 2012 [104 favorites]


On one hand, I support this because (as Xoebe said more eloquently) the child is better off than they would be with someone who didn't want them), but on the other hand, I don't know how a person can handle the knowledge that they weren't wanted from birth. Gods, that must be hard on the psyche.
posted by Mooski at 10:04 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because Lord knows we want to force these specific people into rearing children.

The point being made was that the mothers may want to keep the baby, but fathers or pimps might force them to get rid of it (presumably more easily than they may be able to without the presence of baby boxes).
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:04 AM on June 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Proven yet again: the problem with providing anonymity-preserving services is that no one can tell who's using them.
posted by ubiquity at 10:06 AM on June 26, 2012 [16 favorites]


Stuff in a box on a road is not an irrational fear. There's absolutely no reason why there shouldn't be something in there. And what's the potential payoff if it turns out there is? Not as high as the potential risk if it were a baby, or a box of nails, or solid steel.

They don't find it as funny as I do.

How strange.
posted by DU at 10:07 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah, nevermind. I see you were talking about forcing the fathers into parenthood and disregarding the mother bit entirely. Either way, someone's wishes are being stepped on.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:07 AM on June 26, 2012


Whatever you do, don't set your baby box adrift on the Nile.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:08 AM on June 26, 2012 [17 favorites]


I have seen what happens to kids raised by (a) parent(s) who did not want them. As awful as the foster system is (and in my town, it can be pretty horrible for older children in the system), I say thank goodness for the Safe Haven laws--I have no doubt that the majority of those children are better off than those who stay with their biological parents only to be neglected and/or abused.

Ideally, these things wouldn't be needed at all because birth control would be easy to obtain, affordable, and everyone would actually use it.
posted by smirkette at 10:09 AM on June 26, 2012 [31 favorites]


common in medieval Europe

Good thing they weren't common earlier than that. If Rhea could have dropped Romulus and Remus in a safety deposit box, what would have happened to the Roman Empire?
posted by ubiquity at 10:12 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


If Rhea could have dropped Romulus and Remus in a safety deposit box, what would have happened to the Roman Empire?

It wouldn't have gone to the dogs?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:13 AM on June 26, 2012 [21 favorites]


Smirkette, of course, not all birth control works all the time. I think these boxes sound like a great idea...having trouble seeing the downside.
posted by agregoli at 10:16 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that Safe Haven laws are well-meaning and well-intentioned, but I've always thought that they opened up a Pandora's Box of legal questions that were not always thought out.

Let's say "Chris" and "Terry" have a baby (genders are irrelevant and therefore masked with silly names).

1. Chris puts their baby in a box without consulting Terry. Can Terry get the child back, or have Terry's parental rights been terminated by Chris's actions?

2. Chris wants to put the baby in a box but Terry doesn't want to. Does Chris have the right to do so over Terry's objections?

3. Chris and Terry agree to put the baby in the box. The next day, Chris has a change of heart and wants the baby back, but Terry doesn't. Can Chris force Terry to re-assume parental responsibilities?
posted by DWRoelands at 10:17 AM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


The 'baby box' returns to Europe

Will there be some free market-specific condiments available, like Garlic Mayo in Belgium / Salt&Vinegar in the UK?

..... or is this some one-baby-flavour-fits all edict from the busybody bureaucrats in Brussels?
posted by lalochezia at 10:17 AM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


In the town where I lived for a while in Tennessee, the animal shelter had a "night deposit" box. Unfortunately the shoot lead to a single holding pen. Many was the morning that workers came to unlock the box and found a cage full of dogs trying to make themselves as small as possible in the far end of the pen and a single, angry cat at the other end.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:20 AM on June 26, 2012 [66 favorites]


Are there any obvious legal ramifications for someone who is not a citizen of Baby-box-country coming in and leaving their newborn in the box before traveling back to their home country, EU or not?

I suppose my asking is more academic and focused on "Would any U.S. officials look for the child that you left in the babybox later and are you liable for keeping records on it's whereabouts?" Probably a moot discussion because of the Safe Haven laws here in the U.S. but I'm curious about how other countries would handle it as well as far as that goes.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:22 AM on June 26, 2012


And what's the potential payoff if it turns out there is?

Obviously you've never driven over a box on the road.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:26 AM on June 26, 2012


Stuff in a box on a road is not an irrational fear.

Once upon a time there was a box in the road. As its owner tried to shoo off oncoming traffic an 18 wheeler blew its horn and bore down, making it clear the box was about to get flattened. The owner of the box had to jump out of the way at the last second.

Unfortunately, the box was actually a 1,000 pound test weight which had fallen off of a scale company test truck. True story.

Saddest thing is the poor scale guy got the ticket and the bill for the totaled tractor trailer.

So do not run over boxes in the road if you can avoid them. They might contain a baby. Or something else unpleasant.
posted by localroger at 10:30 AM on June 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


Stuff in a box on a road is not an irrational fear.

Once upon a time there was a box in the road.


Once upon a time a trucker was cutting through a residential area and an upturned cardboard box was blown in his path.

After crushing it, he learned the box contained a kindergartner horsing around.
posted by ocschwar at 10:35 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


He did much of the unpublished research on which the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child relied in its assessment of the system. It believes that children have a right to know who their parents are and that right is denied to the foundlings left in baby boxes.

I'm normally pro-UN, but its remit is to mediate relationships between states and populations. If the UN is opposing baby boxes because they think the individual parents are infringing the rights of the child, then its micromanaging and needs to move along. I'm not very impressed with Professor Browne's viewpoint as reported in the article, but then it's the BBC (which has sadly become synonymous in my mind with 'third-rate internet journalism').
posted by anigbrowl at 10:36 AM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


> on the other hand, I don't know how a person can handle the knowledge that they weren't wanted from birth

Surely this is something every person who was put up for adoption deals with? I imagine it's hard for some and easy for others.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:36 AM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


...and of course the flip side -- for kids who get adopted -- is that they're very much wanted from birth, just by someone else.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:37 AM on June 26, 2012 [27 favorites]


on the other hand, I don't know how a person can handle the knowledge that they weren't wanted from birth

That's a possibility, not a fact. Not everyone is capable of looking after a baby, no matter how much they might want to. If they were indifferent then they might just as easily have had an abortion or abandoned the baby to exposure. At least if someone puts a baby in a rescue box like this, they want the bay to live.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:40 AM on June 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


cjorgensen: Now I can't pass a box on the street without wondering if there is a baby in it. It's kind of like Schrödinger's baby.

ubiquity: If Rhea could have dropped Romulus and Remus in a safety deposit box, what would have happened to the Roman Empire?

These two comments have collided in my head, traded DNA, gotten their chocolate in my peanut butter, etc. Cjorgensen, you must never, ever actually open one of those boxes because if you do, and there is a baby inside, then you will have transitioned into another world, a world that still remembers the lost glory that was the Reman Empire.
posted by Naberius at 10:42 AM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


posted by anigbrowl At least if someone puts a baby in a rescue box like this, they want the baby to live.

Baby Boxes are a win-win solution. If you don't want your baby, the Baby Box is a safe place to leave it. If you want a baby, just keep checking the box because, hey, free baby!
posted by mattdidthat at 10:45 AM on June 26, 2012 [87 favorites]


The alternative is...?
posted by Jehan at 10:46 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I have one friend who is off-the-deep-end stark raving about the UN children's rights bill and how the US is planning to adopt its provisions, and how it means parent's can't raise their kids because the state will be taking over.

I'm all happy to blow him off, then this comes up.
posted by k5.user at 10:46 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stuff in a box on a road is not an irrational fear. There's absolutely no reason why there shouldn't be something in there.

But I think the subtext was, "what is the realistic likelihood that the something in the box in the middle of the road could have specifically been a baby?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's some (anecdotal) statistics: Hamburg, a German city of 1.5 million has had a total of 38 babies deposited in their box in the 10 years that the box is in existence. 14 of these where claimed by their mothers within a few days. So this seems to not be a big problem but might safe some lives.

Widespread abuse by pimps and hookers is a right wing fantasy.
posted by patrick54 at 10:49 AM on June 26, 2012 [45 favorites]


From this article (2010):

In Illinois, 53 children have been dropped off legally since the safe haven law took effect in 2001. Of the 58 babies abandoned illegally since 2001, 28 died, according to the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation.

It seems like Safe Haven laws don't really encourage a torrent of abandonment, but they do save lives. The article mentions some complications resulting from variations on policies in various states. Unless the UN has some dramatically different numbers about how this all goes down I can't say I agree with their assessment.
posted by newg at 10:55 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


you will have transitioned into another world, a world that still remembers the lost glory that was the Reman Empire.

Or worse, you will be having a flashback to watching Star Trek: Nemesis.
posted by Copronymus at 10:55 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The concept is missing variants for overstaying guests, ex boy or girl friends and teenagers.
posted by rongorongo at 10:56 AM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


"The critics say that baby boxes may be used by unscrupulous fathers or even controllers of prostitutes to put pressure on mothers to dispose of an unwanted baby."

I don't see how his thesis is supported by the facts. If an "unscrupolous father"/pimp drops a baby off without the mother's permission surely she will go to the police to report a missing baby; it isn't like an adoptive parenet gets irrevocable custody within hours of the baby being dropped off. If she is unwilling to go to the police (I am assuming because of either abuse or severe mental illness) then it is a net good because clearly she would be unwilling to go to police if the the baby's living conditions were unsafe, and she is not capable of currently caring for the newborn. Yes, it would lovely if all children had access to their biological history, with advances in science I believe this biological history is going ot become more and more available regardless of whether the parents are physically in the picture (genetic testing/genetic banks like 43andme etc.)
posted by saucysault at 10:57 AM on June 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Whoa, it just hit me that in the sci-fi, not-so-distant future portion of my brain that I can see this being extrapolated into "Come in and we'll remove your fetus and take care of it and nurture it for you so that you don't have to deal with this pregnancy that you didn't want."

I'll have to think on that one for a moment because it seems.. somehow... inherently darker than the baby-box idea for some reason and I'm not sure why.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:00 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of my daughter's best friends in preschool was an adopted Safe Haven baby.
posted by erniepan at 11:00 AM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Babies Moses and Superman approve.

That said, the non- or unable-to- consenting mother angle is kind of scary.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:04 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't see how his thesis is supported by the facts. If an "unscrupolous father"/pimp drops a baby off without the mother's permission surely she will go to the police to report a missing baby; it isn't like an adoptive parenet gets irrevocable custody within hours of the baby being dropped off.

The argument seems to be that 'pimps' will be able to more easily coerce their prostitutes to give up babies because the babies will have somewhere safe to go, I guess? Not that pimps will steal the babies.
posted by muddgirl at 11:09 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Come in and we'll remove your fetus and take care of it and nurture it for you so that you don't have to deal with this pregnancy that you didn't want."

WANT.

Although nowadays, I'd also like the baby back at the end.
posted by muddgirl at 11:10 AM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Widespread abuse by pimps and hookers is a right wing fantasy.

Obsessing over whether baby boxes violate the UN convention on the rights of teh child doesn't sound like a right-wing fantasy. I have the impression that Professor Browse is trying to wangle a grant or a job from exaggerating the scope of this 'problem.'

When I was a teenager, there was a bizarre case of infanticide in Ireland (where abortion is illegal), which could have been avoided entirely if there were some sort of nonjudgmental (and nonbureaucratic) means of ethical abandonment. By definition, services like this are only needed when things have already gone terribly wrong and the abandoning parent is incompetent to look after the child (whether because of life circumstances, immaturity, post-partum depression or whatever). I think it's essential that something like this is available to people in desperate circumstances.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:10 AM on June 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


That said, the non- or unable-to- consenting mother angle is kind of scary

No scarier than an abused or non-consenting mother keeping the baby. This sounds like misplaced concern to me, honestly.
posted by Forktine at 11:13 AM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


...but on the other hand, I don't know how a person can handle the knowledge that they weren't wanted from birth. Gods, that must be hard on the psyche.

Well, speaking as an adopted person I see it a bit differently. While I've never met any of my biological relatives (with the important distinction of my wonderful daughter) I know the story - she was 18 and in rural Alberta. Not hard to figure out what went wrong. I don't have any negative feelings about not being planned, etc...lots of people who are in committed, loving relationships have accidents and those kids are most often loved to death. Likewise, I was able to be raised by my adopted parents who love me and treat me as they do my younger brother, who is their biological son.

It's amazing the amount of discussion around the box at St Paul's in Vancouver. Personally I think it's a wonderful thing and system. I can't imagine how hard it would be to give up your child to one of these boxes, but isn't it a wonderful thing to have the option to know that your child will be safe if you have to come to that decision?
posted by jimmythefish at 11:15 AM on June 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


IT IS REAL AND IT IS DANGEROUS
posted by lalochezia at 11:15 AM on June 26, 2012


The argument seems to be that 'pimps' will be able to more easily coerce their prostitutes to give up babies because the babies will have somewhere safe to go, I guess? Not that pimps will steal the babies.

Sure, but in my mind the alternative scenario doesn't play out all that well for mother and child, either. Either mother keeps child in this living arrangement with said pimp, or he pimp simply throws the baby in a dumpster. So the child grows up progeny to basically a sex slave, or dead.

The baby box looks like a better alternative.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:15 AM on June 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


Things found in a baby box other than babies would make a great blog.
posted by stbalbach at 11:15 AM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah I agree, 2N2222. If we're conjuring up an (imaginary) evil pimp who coerces his prostitutes to give up wanted babies, where will such an (imaginary) evil pimp stop??? That's the problem with legislating for 'what-ifs' rather than reality.
posted by muddgirl at 11:17 AM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another alternative for a mother not wanting her child is what we have seen in Toronto in the past decade - fresh newborns left overnight in public parking stairwells in January, or in a dumpster, where they get discovered in the nick of time and the whole city lines up to adopt them. A baby box would have been a less horrific option.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:23 AM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stuff in a box on a road is not an irrational fear.

Once upon a time there was a box in the road.

Once upon a time a trucker was cutting through a residential area and an upturned cardboard box was blown in his path.

After crushing it, he learned the box contained a kindergartner horsing around.

After swerving to avoid the empty box, the trucker lost control of his vehicle and slammed into a bus full of school kids and a truck load of kittens.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:23 AM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


but on the other hand, I don't know how a person can handle the knowledge that they weren't wanted from birth. Gods, that must be hard on the psyche.

Yeah, but you know what? You can get that experience even if your parents didn't put you in a Safe Haven box upon birth! And as an adult who was an unwanted child, I often wonder what it would have been like to grow up with the idea of parents who didn't want me as an abstract concept, instead of having to look them in the face now and then and KNOW.

Also, consider that this is something adopted and foster children go through every single day already, whether or not it's a true fact that they were unwanted (rather than being wanted but born to parents unable to care for them). This is not a shocking new thing that will develop with the widespread use of Safe Haven boxes. This already happens every day for millions of people.
posted by palomar at 11:28 AM on June 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


...and slammed into a bus full of school kids and a truck load of kittens.

...and nobody was hurt and everyone died of a cute overload.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:28 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we're conjuring up an (imaginary) evil pimp who coerces his prostitutes to give up wanted babies, where will such an (imaginary) evil pimp stop???

I know, let's put our unwanted pimps in a Pimp Box.
posted by mullacc at 11:32 AM on June 26, 2012 [13 favorites]


They need to make the boxes big enough so you can still put them in right about the time you'd have to pay for them to go to college.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:38 AM on June 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


The concept is missing variants for overstaying guests, ex boy or girl friends and teenagers.

a funny joke until you realize it's true. nebraska had to change their safe haven law because 29 teenagers were abandoned in 4 months, some of them from other states.
posted by nadawi at 11:38 AM on June 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Common in medieval Europe

Good thing they weren't common earlier than that.


If baby boxes existed in biblical history then Moses probably never would have been set adrift among the reeds, never would have become a prince, and never led the children of Israel out of bondage.

Therefore, supporters of baby boxes also favor slavery.
posted by Winnemac at 11:41 AM on June 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Man, I have such a vivid memory of this episode of M*A*S*H, in which they ultimately leave the baby in a box like this at a monastery/convent.

Wikipedia dates the boxes ("founding wheels") to at least the 12th century in Italy.
posted by argonauta at 11:49 AM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


If a controllers of prostitutes does not want their prostitutes to have babies one would hope that even an utterly immoral rational actor would buy/have them buy some contraceptive pills.

Since, you know, the plan of having a baby to term then leaving it in a box would involve a heavily unreliable worker who might die if rough sex caused internal bleeding and would needlessly inflate the comparatively light potential criminal penalties associated with pimping to those of child abduction.
posted by jaduncan at 11:51 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The trouble with the old reed-basket-on-the-river system is that if you lived at the river's headwater you'd never get a baby, and if you lived down by the sea you didn't get to leave one. Proof that continuous process improvement drives innovation and benefits humanity.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:55 AM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


First, put your Pimp in a Box.
posted by The Whelk at 11:57 AM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


If there were boxes to put teenagers in the boxes would always be full.
posted by Daddy-O at 12:00 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


George_Spiggot, you must be an ISO auditor. And to those of you wondering if it's difficult to grow up knowing you weren't wanted from birth...only if you don't balance it with the knowledge that someone else (my parents) wanted me so desperately they went through years of waiting, months of invasive home visits and several false alarms before I showed up. I think I got the better end of the deal.
posted by Kokopuff at 12:01 PM on June 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


If there were boxes to put teenagers in the boxes would always be full.

Oh, you haven't heard of the English boarding school system?
posted by jaduncan at 12:02 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know how a person can handle the knowledge that they weren't wanted from birth. Gods, that must be hard on the psyche.

My father's behaviour around the time of my gestation/birth suggests that were I carried in his body, not my mother's I would have been another statistic about Catholics having abortions. But the absolute nice thing about being a healthy baby is that at least in this culture humans will fight and pay vast sums of money to get a shot at raising you. Damage to my psyche seems to be a lot more related to people being assholes in the now, not during my pre-awareness years, indeed arguably I took the most emotional damage form shitty parents who wanted me- and my mefi posting history should suggest way more angst that he would neither act the role nor deny the claim.

If a controllers of prostitutes does not want their prostitutes to have babies one would hope that even an utterly immoral rational actor would buy/have them buy some contraceptive pills.

Statistically speaking, not obeying contraceptive protocols is more common in abusive relationships, as is attacks on the children to control the parent. Fear of pimp baby snatchers is still insane- and seems to have hooks into the whole "my pimp tried to force mummy to give me up which finally drove her to leave" narratives I encounter way, way too much in fiction, but this sort of thing does happen. On the other hand, a baby box again is a better thing in reality and about the only thing I can think people are finding objectionable is the unfounded belief poor sweet hookers with hearts of gold will be saved by their strong moral sense, but only if the stakes are high enough or the unfounded belief abandoned babies are forever cleaved from the owner.
posted by Phalene at 12:09 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


on the other hand, I don't know how a person can handle the knowledge that they weren't wanted from birth

Well, from my experience, you get used to it.
posted by SPrintF at 12:14 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


My dear Dad opened a shoe box on the pier in Panama, in the early 60's, and there was a dead baby inside. That was a story I never forgot. What a relief to know that there are Baby Safe Havens now. Thanks for this post.
posted by nickyskye at 12:15 PM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


ITYM condoms. Because you don't want your bottom beyotch out of action with an STD.

Good point. Also no GP contact for condoms, although one would assume there would also be a need to guard against pregnancy via condom rips. Maybe just both.
posted by jaduncan at 12:26 PM on June 26, 2012


Which plan equals fewer newborns dying of exposure?

Whichever one it is, let's go with that plan.
posted by emjaybee at 12:27 PM on June 26, 2012 [32 favorites]


I am confused that the imaginary evil pimps would force the prostitutes to leave their hypothetical babies in a nice safe baby box where it will be well-cared for, rather than forcing the women to have abortions months ago. Or selling the baby to a lucrative adoption black market. Or keeping the baby as a bargaining-chip hostage for the obedience of the mother. See the post here a few weeks ago about people who stay in abusive relationships because they fear for the safety of their of their pets: why would abusive partners attempt control by threatening, "Do what I tell you, bitch, or I'm gonna take your Baby dog downtown and throw him away at the nonprofit no-kill shelter! THEN you'll be sorry!"
posted by nicebookrack at 12:31 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm waiting for the Redbox version of this, where you can decide on whether or not you want to raise a child for the low, low price of $1 per night.
posted by xingcat at 12:32 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wonder how non-bastards ever come to grips with never really knowing if their parents wanted them or just told themselves that they wanted them; if their parents kept them just for appearances and out of social pressure or if because they loved them. How do they navigate the the buried dreams, transplanted expectations, hastily reinvented identities and layers of deception to have a reasonable relationship with their parents?
posted by bdc34 at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm pretty sure all boxes in roads contain a baby. That's where I am told they come from.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:35 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


And once a month you can get a free-baby code by text, but the baby goes to whoever puts the code in the Babybox kiosk first.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:35 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Babies that are unwanted from birth happen. Not having baby boxes or safe havens is not going to magically make all biological parents want their babies.
posted by Anne Neville at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting for the Redbox version of this, where you can decide on whether or not you want to raise a child for the low, low price of $1 per night.

That's already out of date. We just genetorrented our youngest.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:38 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whoa, it just hit me that in the sci-fi, not-so-distant future portion of my brain that I can see this being extrapolated into "Come in and we'll remove your fetus and take care of it and nurture it for you so that you don't have to deal with this pregnancy that you didn't want."

I'll have to think on that one for a moment because it seems.. somehow... inherently darker than the baby-box idea for some reason and I'm not sure why.


You're a touch late. Artificial uteri and the implications thereof has been kicking around in scifi for a while now.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:42 PM on June 26, 2012


Man these evil imaginary pimps are totally irrational!
posted by The Whelk at 12:43 PM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


but on the other hand, I don't know how a person can handle the knowledge that they weren't wanted from birth. Gods, that must be hard on the psyche.

Not to play the "authority card" here, but I am an adoptee and a foundling, which gives me a (thankfully) rare perspective on this particular issue. In my experience, I can tell you it's not hard on the psyche at all. I know that my mother loved me, and recognized that she was not able to care for me. The reason I know this is because she left me in a place (the lobby of a free clinic) where she knew I would be found quickly and cared for. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I've come to the conclusion that a mother who was callous or truly did not want her baby might have left their child somewhere a bit more convenient.

Nope, not for a single moment in my life have I felt unwanted.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:45 PM on June 26, 2012 [53 favorites]


Well, yea.. Brave New World and all that, but I guess my epiphany was with regards to using it as a direct response to unwanted pregnancy.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:45 PM on June 26, 2012


Wait, what if the pimp knows where a baby box with atomic bomb is going to go off and there isn't time to use conventional interrogation techniques?
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:45 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wait, what if the pimp knows where a baby box with atomic bomb is going to go off and there isn't time to use conventional interrogation techniques?

Take off and nuke him from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by jaduncan at 12:51 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


(or her; I don't want to deny women a career here).
posted by jaduncan at 12:52 PM on June 26, 2012


theres a pimp with a baby in a box on a frog on a log at the hole at the bottom of the sea
posted by The Whelk at 12:55 PM on June 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, yea.. Brave New World and all that, but I guess my epiphany was with regards to using it as a direct response to unwanted pregnancy.

Interesting. Most sci fi doesn't deal with artificial uteri from the unwanted pregnancy angle. It's usually "warriors bred in artificial uteri" or "everyone bred in artificial uteri - dystopia" or "most people bred in artificial uteri - women who don't use them are weird/looked down own."

I did get into a discussion once about what would happen to abortion if artificial uteri became widespread, i.e., what if a woman had an unwanted pregnancy, she wanted to abort, but the govt outlawed abortion and forced women to put unwanted fetuses in artificial uteri. That would be an interesting story.
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:59 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


On one hand, I support this because (as Xoebe said more eloquently) the child is better off than they would be with someone who didn't want them), but on the other hand, I don't know how a person can handle the knowledge that they weren't wanted from birth. Gods, that must be hard on the psyche.

If you weren't wanted from birth, you figure that out pretty quickly even if your parents didn't drop you off in a box. In fact, you figure it out quicker if they don't.
posted by Alexander Hatchell at 1:12 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


....and then did what with them? In the US alone we have about 1.3 million abortions per year. What do we do with 1.3 million extra babies each and every year? I know right now we have a surplus of parents who want to adopt, but what happens when those 500,000 or so homes are filled? What do we do with the other 800k kids? This is pretty ripe, actually.
posted by muddgirl at 1:13 PM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Every time I hear the phrase "baby safe haven" I can't help but hear this song in my head.

The story behind that rap is sad in its own way.
posted by gusandrews at 1:45 PM on June 26, 2012


muddgirl, wow, I never even considered what about the kids. We were looking at from the woman's point of view - would it be legal for the govt to force the woman to have surgery (put the fetus in artificial uteri), would the govt make the woman pay child support, what are the ethics of forcing someone to be a biological mother when they don't want to, etc, etc. We never even got to the kids.
posted by nooneyouknow at 1:55 PM on June 26, 2012


Pseudo-clone army, go-to number one for a sci-fi novel.

(How do you make that little Copyright or TM thing again?)
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:02 PM on June 26, 2012


I'm waiting for the Redbox version of this, where you can decide on whether or not you want to raise a child for the low, low price of $1 per night.

I'll just stream the video. My backpack's usually full on the way home anyway.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:14 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


theres a pimp with a baby in a box on a frog on a log at the hole at the bottom of the sea

I thought it was elephants on the back of a big turtle?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:16 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know, let's put our unwanted pimps in a Pimp Box.

Yeah, and let's make sure the angry cat from The 10th Regiment of Foot's story is there too.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:16 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


My father was good friends during the Korean war with one Sister Philomena (immortalized by Doris Roberts in the movie, "1000 men and a baby") who ran an orphanage for girls in Inchon. He said that the orphanage had a "lazy Susan" type door. As he put it, prostitutes would leave their AmerAsian babies to die of exposure and "good women" would find the babies and put them in the lazy Susan.

Here's his blog entry about the orphanage, and the nun, including the anecdote that the nuns would revive the dying infants with a combination of milk and outdated transfusion-blood from the hospital ship. Ew.
posted by boo at 2:40 PM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's already out of date. We just genetorrented our youngest.

I've been stuck at 99% for months :-(
posted by mykescipark at 3:05 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


When my son was a newborn and I would drive by the hospital with the big huge "BABY SAFE HAVEN!" signs, I would start tearing up. Between my genuine love for him and the postpartum hormones, it was just too much and I wanted to take every baby home and snuggle them myself.

From a more rational and less hormonal perspective, I'm very glad that Safe Havens exist so that babies have a fighting chance of getting said snuggles. I know how hard adoptive parents work to have children and whatever harm it must do to know your biological parents decided not to raise you is more than likely balanced out by knowing that your adoptive family wanted you so very, very much.

FWIW, I'm my parents' biological child and my stepbrother was adopted. Neither one of us are without our neuroses - he's pulled the "You're not my REAL! parents" card on many an angsty occasion and I've had the singular joy of being told that if my father could do his life over again, I never would have been born. So, my point here is that being raised by your biological parents doesn't guarantee being wanted or feeling valued.

(Whatever issues I have with my father and his rants about "blah blah blah never would have married your mother blah blah blah even IF I knew I would have had you blah blah biggest mistake of my life blah blah blah" are more than balanced out by my mom's view of my birth - she'd suffered from very serious depression in her early twenties and had survived a few suicide attempts. She'd never been entirely certain that she wanted to have kids and I was an accidental pregnancy. Since she wasn't *against* having kids, she thought "Ok, well, here we go." And she was seriously about the best mother a kid could ever hope to have. I honestly believe that if I can be half the mother to my son that my mother was to me, I'll have done a great job. As for the depression? Never reared its head again after I was born. My mother quite honestly credits having me as having saved her life. Which, makes up for a few shitty remarks from my father for sure.)
posted by sonika at 3:45 PM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Frankly, it makes you wonder why there isn't a free market in babies. Why isn't there a simple mechanism where buyers can meet sellers and everybody can benefit? And why can't I sell off shares in the baby, why is it do or die? What if I mostly want the kid but I also have plans to explore the Chilean alps? Why do I have to choose between Chile and a Baby Safe Haven box? And why can't kids be rented? If I just want to go to Chuck-E-cheese for the weekend why the fuck do I actually have to manufacture another human being and care for it for 18 years? (Technically you don't but they seem to really look down upon single guys lazing about in the ball pit.)

The point is we should get over such biological superstitions. The idea that biological parents are somehow "preeminent," that they're the "real" parents -- it's blah. I say let anybody brave/stupid/naieve enough have the chance. Heck, this could work like time shares.

Which plan equals fewer newborns dying of exposure?

Whichever one it is, let's go with that plan.


Exactly.
posted by nixerman at 4:49 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Frankly, it makes you wonder why there isn't a free market in babies. Why isn't there a simple mechanism where buyers can meet sellers and everybody can benefit?

They have something like this in Vietnam. One of the recent-ish scandals in Asian Adoption circles is how many of the children adopted to US parents were stolen from their parents for profit. Some of the children have been able to find their families and hear horrible stories about their kidnappings.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:02 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some of the children have been able to find their families and hear horrible stories about their kidnappings.

But at least they were spared the emotional distress of thinking they were unwanted.
posted by localroger at 5:27 PM on June 26, 2012


But at least they were spared the emotional distress of thinking they were unwanted.

Only after they found their families. Before then, they were outright told they were unwanted and adopted out to anotyher country. The lie told by their kidnapper is that the babies and children were abandoned.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:58 PM on June 26, 2012


I get the feeling a lot of people commenting haven't exactly R'd the TFA.

Whether you agree with it or not (and I confess I'm not entirely sure where I sit on this one), I think it's pretty obviously a false dichotomy to posit Baby In Box In Hospital vs Baby In Box On Isolated Hillside etc, and the concern about pimps etc is not actually imaginary, but based on the fact (not mentioned in the article except as part of "studies") that video footage of one European box revealed that the majority of people using the box were, in fact, men, and that it raises the question of whether the mothers consented to the dropping.

Whether you agree or not, that is a legitimate concern and in countries that still have some kind of a functioning welfare state, there are probably other, better options in situations like this - not to mention the implications regarding the welfare of the women who gave birth, and the duty of the state to protect them, as well.

Presuming that it's dropping a baby off at a hospital, or infanticide if that doesn't happen, is unknown and largely unknowable. There's certainly merit to both sides of the argument; I feel like most of the discussion here is eliding the nuance and wider context of a legitimate and troubling debate/discussion.
posted by smoke at 6:13 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


that video footage of one European box revealed that the majority of people using the box were, in fact, men, and that it raises the question of whether the mothers consented to the dropping.

(a) What percentage of men are pimps? (I'm guessing basically zero percent) Why, when we think of men with a baby, do we assume that it was coerced/stolen? Isn't that really misandrist?

(b) If the woman is coerced, she can come by later and reclaim the child. If the kid was stolen, they can report it to the police. Heck, even if the woman wasn't coerced and was just having a bad day, she can reclaim the baby. It's not like the library book drop.
posted by muddgirl at 6:23 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]



Why does the unwanted pregnancy problem always get addressed half-assed from the wrong end?

There are many inexpensive boxes that could be placed in public venues that could work wonders in solving the problem.

no babies in this box

*Although I am in favor of no-stigma baby boxes should an unwanted pregnancy not be terminated.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:25 PM on June 26, 2012


jaduncan writes "Since, you know, the plan of having a baby to term then leaving it in a box would involve a heavily unreliable worker who might die if rough sex caused internal bleeding and would needlessly inflate the comparatively light potential criminal penalties associated with pimping to those of child abduction."

Ya, but you got to think that guys who want to get squelchy with pregnant women is an under served market ripe for the right gogetter to rise to the top of his profession by expanding in that niche.

nixerman writes "And why can't kids be rented?"

Something heaveliy explored in the book The Shockwave Rider.
posted by Mitheral at 6:37 PM on June 26, 2012


What percentage of men are pimps? (I'm guessing basically zero percent)

The original quote is below, the pimp obsession of metafilter is not really reflected in it. Additionally, and respectfully, I'm not really sure why your "guessing basically" should have more weight than the professor who's investigating this issue and presumably read the studies referred to.

"Studies in Hungary show that it's not necessarily mothers who place babies in these boxes - that it's relatives, pimps, step-fathers, fathers. Therefore, the big question is: are these baby boxes upholding women's rights, and has the mother of that child consented to the baby being placed in the baby box?"


Why, when we think of men with a baby, do we assume that it was coerced/stolen? Isn't that really misandrist?

I don't think that we - whoever we is - does necessarily think that, and I don't think it's necessarily misandrist, especially in the context of reproductive rights which have historically been dominated by women making decisions on behalf of women.

Again, I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the practice - I for one certainly don't know enough to have a worthwhile opinion on it - however, I think it's a complicated issue that deserves more than a kneejerk in either direction.
posted by smoke at 6:40 PM on June 26, 2012


Obviously, I mean: I don't think it's necessarily misandrist, especially in the context of reproductive rights which have historically been dominated by women making decisions on behalf of women.
posted by smoke at 6:41 PM on June 26, 2012


You all realize you are talking about Baby BBQ right?
posted by srboisvert at 7:38 PM on June 26, 2012


smoke writes "I don't think that we - whoever we is - does necessarily think that, and I don't think it's necessarily misandrist, especially in the context of reproductive rights which have historically been dominated by women making decisions on behalf of women. "

It's certainly a tricky and nuanced situation. In the States at least courts have zero problem making both mother and father financially responsible for offspring. And given the existence of safe haven laws should either parent be able to take advantage of the safe haven or does it need to be unanimous? How do you reconcile safe haven with maternal/paternal financial responsibility. If one parent deposits their baby in the box without the consent of the other parent and the other parent latter reclaims the baby is the first parent still financially responsible? What if the first parent has sole custody?

Glad it's not me sorting this stuff out as it sounds like there are no really good answers.
posted by Mitheral at 7:57 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


emjaybee: "Which plan equals fewer newborns dying of exposure?

Whichever one it is, let's go with that plan.
"

Pretty much the point I was going to make, with the addition of "How is a baby dead of exposure going to exert their right to determine their parentage/genetic heritage?"

Upon reading that, I think it is a valid point, despite the fact it looks like something out of one of those "Grossest Jokes EVER!" boos we all saw in 7th grade.
posted by Samizdata at 9:08 PM on June 26, 2012


mykescipark: "That's already out of date. We just genetorrented our youngest.

I've been stuck at 99% for months :-(
"

Looks like you need to reannounce so you can get more seeds.
posted by Samizdata at 9:15 PM on June 26, 2012


\s boos\books\
posted by Samizdata at 9:18 PM on June 26, 2012


critics say the boxes may be used for their intended purpose.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:51 PM on June 26, 2012


All this talk of saving the babies of prostitutes is bogus. The boxes are for women forced by religion and religious people into being ashamed they're pregnant. It's telling that strongly religious countries have these, and countries where shame is not rammed down a girls throat don't need them.

If a woman really doesn't believe she can care for a child then society as a whole should help her, not shame her into anonymously abandoning her baby.
posted by Hugh Routley at 1:44 AM on June 27, 2012


It's interesting that some boxes seem predominantly used by men. To the extent that that reflects coercion or manipulation (which as others have said, may not be immediately obvious), that is a real problem. But addressing the problem by eliminating the boxes is just upside down. By the time a woman is in a state of vulnerability such that she has no way to protect herself from this, or to seek to fix the situation afterwards, it's questionable to what extent simply restoring the baby to her will create a better situation for either her or the child. It's a problem that needs to be addressed by empowering women socially and financially long before it comes down to the baby box.

It is a reason to incorporate abuse screening and intervention much more heavily into prenatal care, and to create strong social and economic safety nets for parents and children.
posted by Salamandrous at 6:09 AM on June 27, 2012


It's a little unnerving that video of who is using the boxes even exists. That seems like a major breach of the anonymity that users should rightly expect to have in these situations.

Also, it seems to me that if a woman really doesn't believe she can care for a child, society should believe her. I am glad that this option exists.
posted by argonauta at 6:44 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Widespread abuse by pimps and hookers is a right wing fantasy.

As is the story "The Tortoise and the Hare". Yes, at some time in the history of the universe, it might happen. Must. Be. Prepared.
posted by Twang at 3:08 PM on June 27, 2012


Reasons the US "Safe Haven" laws are controversial:

1) Each state already has a mechanism by which parents may relinquish custody. It's called giving your child up for adoption.

2) Someone who is not the legal parent/guardian of the child may anonymously give up the child with no consequences, and without means (or adding great difficulty) for the biological parent to regain physical custody. e.g., A 17 year-old (or hell, a 19 year-old legal adult still living at home) gives birth, and her disapproving parents put it in a Safe Haven box.

3) The relinquished child has no means of knowing his/her original identity. This is likely the genesis of the UN's concern here, since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child includes provisions about adoptees knowing their original birth identities. (The US has for years refused to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.) Incidentally, the tide is turning in regards to US adoptees knowing their birth identities, with a dozen or so states enacting such laws in the past 15 years, and more in progress. Most of Europe and much of the rest of the world doesn't hide birth identities from adoptees.

4) The real problem the Safe Haven laws are trying to circumvent is completely lost in the discussion over the damn boxes: Girls in extreme denial of their pregnancies giving birth in school bathrooms or motel rooms or some other place where such events have happened. The idea is that these girls will transport the baby to a Safe Haven box (or fire station, in many jurisdictions), and drop off the baby.

What I think is glaringly missing in the attempted drop-off solution is a lack of understanding of how these girls are dissociating from their experience. I question the likelihood of a girl who would otherwise put her newborn in a dumpster or let it drown in a toilet to instead safely transport it to a Safe Haven box or fire station.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:41 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mother was a profession of irrational fears. No matter what you were doing there was always a tragic result possible.

Once day, I was going to swerve the car to hit a small box. She yells out, "Don't hit that box! There could be a baby in there!" Her point was I had no idea. It could have been bricks or nails or kittens. Something that could ruin my car or my day, but what came out was "baby!"


It's not just your mother. This is actually a Thing, possibly a Mom Thing, but definitely a Thing/trope/meme/whatever. Probably about 20 years ago, a friend of mine told me that her mother (now probably around 80) had shrieked out those exact same words (except maybe it was a bag, not a box) in a similar situation. We laughed about the macabre/bizarre quality of this concept, but I also thought it sounded like some kind of urban legend, and indeed Snopes says that it is.

Ever since, though, I have wondered: If someone REALLY, TRULY thought there could be a baby in that box, shouldn't they be stopping to take a look rather than simply swerving and then speeding on, leaving the poor tot to be flattened by another, less savvy, driver? I've never seen anyone stop to check.
posted by littlecatfeet at 7:35 PM on June 27, 2012


1) Each state already has a mechanism by which parents may relinquish custody. It's called giving your child up for adoption.

It's a much more arduous option for a new and unwilling mother.


2) Someone who is not the legal parent/guardian of the child may anonymously give up the child with no consequences, and without means (or adding great difficulty) for the biological parent to regain physical custody. e.g., A 17 year-old (or hell, a 19 year-old legal adult still living at home) gives birth, and her disapproving parents put it in a Safe Haven box.

3) The relinquished child has no means of knowing his/her original identity. This is likely the genesis of the UN's concern here, since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child includes provisions about adoptees knowing their original birth identities. (The US has for years refused to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.) Incidentally, the tide is turning in regards to US adoptees knowing their birth identities, with a dozen or so states enacting such laws in the past 15 years, and more in progress. Most of Europe and much of the rest of the world doesn't hide birth identities from adoptees.


These concerns would have been valid thirty years ago but good quality DNA testing invalidates them. All that is lacking is administrative means, and I think they could be found and implemented easily enough in case of need, and are probably already in use in some respects.


4) The real problem the Safe Haven laws are trying to circumvent is completely lost in the discussion over the damn boxes: Girls in extreme denial of their pregnancies giving birth in school bathrooms or motel rooms or some other place where such events have happened. The idea is that these girls will transport the baby to a Safe Haven box (or fire station, in many jurisdictions), and drop off the baby.

What I think is glaringly missing in the attempted drop-off solution is a lack of understanding of how these girls are dissociating from their experience. I question the likelihood of a girl who would otherwise put her newborn in a dumpster or let it drown in a toilet to instead safely transport it to a Safe Haven box or fire station.



An imperfect solution is better than none at all.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:56 AM on June 28, 2012


I RTFA, and actually the point which stood out to me about it was the percentage of mothers who tookt he paper inside about how to reclaim their infants, who subsequently did. I skimmed, so I may have miussed the words abotu OMG MOST OF THEM WERE MEN, but clearly in the cases of reclamaition of infants, the women had to have been involved. One other positive action was that when they reclaimed their infants, they were connected up with social services which could support them, and hopefully those continued (since the article mentioned one of the women was taking care of a healthy child now as a single mom, I assume there is continuing care/contact).
posted by Deoridhe at 11:11 AM on June 28, 2012


I would also like to see more crisis nurseries--though I am not a parent, I had never heard of them until I worked in the field, so I can't imagine that the average overwhelmed new parent knows what they are.
posted by skbw at 5:33 PM on June 28, 2012


Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew there was a different term for these baby boxes. Wikipedia tells me they used to be known as "foundling wheels" which is an altogether more awesome name.
posted by bystander at 2:01 AM on June 29, 2012


« Older “This documentary is a humble exploration of the w...  |  Popular comedian Louis CK anno... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments