Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Hamburg, a Warm, Safe Spot for Abandoned Babies ; in Response to High-Profile Deaths, a German Group This Week Opens an Anonymous Drop-Off Point for Newborns

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Hamburg, a Warm, Safe Spot for Abandoned Babies ; in Response to High-Profile Deaths, a German Group This Week Opens an Anonymous Drop-Off Point for Newborns

Article excerpt

Hamburg, in northern Germany, is one of the country's richest cities. So it came as a shock last year, when on two separate occasions unwanted babies were found dead in municipal waste.

The incidents struck a particular chord at the nonprofit organization SterniPark, which runs five nursery schools in Hamburg. "Several of the people who work here - most of whom are mothers themselves - said that we simply have to do something," says Kathrin Herbst of SterniPark. "Then we thought about what we could do."

In response, the organization launched Project Findelbaby (Project Foundling). In addition to establishing a toll-free hotline, this week the group is opening what the German media dubbed a "baby flap" to take in unwanted newborns.

Located in a poor neighborhood of the city, the creative - if not extreme - solution resembles a large mail slot or video drop-off. Behind the opening lies a heated crib with sensors that alert volunteers by cellphone. A mother will have eight weeks to change her mind and reclaim an infant before it is put up for adoption.

While there are at least two church-run locations in Germany where unwanted children can be given up, "Project Foundling" is unique because it offers complete anonymity. Women also could not be charged with abandonment, as they are placing their infant in safe care.

In the US, lawmakers in Delaware, where a construction worker last week found the body of an infant on the floor of a portable toilet, are considering legislation to allow parents to leave babies at hospital emergency rooms without facing abandonment charges. Several other states, including Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota, and Texas, are considering or have adopted similar laws. Yet as in Germany, efforts to put an end to an uncommon but tragic practice are still piecemeal.

German women have legal access to abortion until twelve weeks into a pregnancy, but must show proof of counseling on their decision. According to the Federal Office of Statistics, there are some 130,000 abortions in Germany annually. …

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