2001-05-02 / Editorials


All Babies Deserve Chance For Life

On Feb. 16 the body of a newborn baby girl was found in a sewer at the corner of 155th Street and 119th Avenue in South Jamaica. According to a statement issued by Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, after an investigation by the medical examiner that concluded the baby was born alive, the infant's 15-year-old mother has been arrested and charged with manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide and tampering with physical evidence.

Brown pointed out that earlier this year a law was passed in Albany that provides a legal defense to abandonment or child endangerment charges if a mother brings a baby up to five days old to a safe place and notifies an appropriate person of the child's location. The Abandoned Infant Protection Act is intended to encourage mothers to leave unwanted babies in a safe and suitable location, such as a hospital or fire house, rather than abandon the infant. "This case is a perfect example of the kind of tragedy that might well have been avoided if the young mother had known where she could have safely left her newborn," Brown declared.

The operative words in Brown's statement, at least for us, are "if the young mother had known" where she could safely leave her baby. Brown plainly postulates that she did not. He is right when he says that there are no guarantees that the adolescent mother would have left the child at a designated safe haven and that she must, accordingly, be held accountable under the law. The question arises: Why didn't she know? We wonder how many other desperate women, some still in their teens and some older, are dreading what should be one of the happiest times in a woman's life and who are not aware that this alternative exists.

The law has opponents who are still vocal about what they see as the heinous crime of giving up a child. Some of the law's detractors also claim that the act gives a license to young women to rid themselves of the responsibility of caring for a child. We disagree. States and nations where such laws are now in force do not show any mad rush on the part of parents to relinquish their children. Nor do we think children left at fire houses, churches or hospitals are necessarily worse off. All children deserve safe, loving, stable homes where they can be assured of growing up to be the best sort of person and citizen possible. It should be obvious that a child left at a hospital, fire house or church, to name a few of the safe havens established under the act, has a far better chance of living to find such a home than does one abandoned in a sewer, an alley or a garbage can.

A child who dies of exposure or drowning obviously has no chance for a future at all.

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