• Sun, Dec 15 - 3:24 pm ET

Shenzhen, China To Open ‘Baby Hatch’ For Abandoned Babies

baby hatch

Pictured: Shenzhen Welfare Center (Image: thenanfang.com)

In Shenzhen, China infant abandonment is all too common. Babies are often left in public restrooms, or on the street, by their desperate, usually unmarried mothers, and are usually found much too late to save their lives. Starting next year, however, there will be another option for these moms. The city of Shenzhen will soon open a “baby hatch” where mothers can leave their infants without fear of facing charges or needing to reveal their identity. Personally, I think this is a much better solution than leaving them on the street, but apparently some people disagree.

The announcement of the baby hatch opening has caused quite a controversy in the area. Detractors say they worry that the ease of these hatches might raise the number of babies that are abandoned. Still, I think that’s a better outcome than finding dead newborns all over the city.

In a survey done by the official news portal for Shenzhen, sznews.com, 35 percent of the over 1300 people spoken to worries that the center would cause more abandonments, while a solid 17 percent were against it all together. Because what’s a few dead babies, amirite? /sarcasm

The baby hatch and center will have an incubator, ventilator, life support equipment and cribs, and will be located near the Shenzhen Welfare Center, which cares for abandoned infants that are found alive. The center will not have surveillance cameras to ensure parent privacy, according to Tang Rongsheng, the Welfare Center director. Parents will be able to press an alarm that will give them a few moments to leave before someone comes for the child, allowing them to stay anonymous.

Journalist David Xiao pretty much sums up my opinion on the matter:

“Babies will continue to be abandoned whether there’s a safe place for it or not,” he said. “The program means all unwanted children and their mothers can be given a second chance at life.’ I can’t forget these babies. They all looked like little kittens and were dumped like a piece of rubbish, Their mothers were migrant workers with poor education and salary. Most of them were only girls. They just delivered their child in a public toilet or on the stairs and left, or even strangled the baby right there.”

As chilling as Xiao’s description is, I think he’s absolutely right. Much like the debate on abortion, child abandonments will happen, whether we like it or not. Providing an out for these mothers will ensure that fewer babies are killed after birth, and few moms feel the need to leave their children on the street. I think this is definitely a step in the right direction for Shenzhen.

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  • Personal

    We have these in Germany. I’ve heard there are 80 of them here. I think it’s a good thing.

  • Muggle

    Stories like these remind me of someone I knew, who gave birth at 16. She stabbed the baby to death right after it was born, and left it in her closet. Her family took her to the hospital, where she confessed to the murder and was arrested. She’s going to be in prison for the next 10 years.

    She was only one mile away from the local fire station, too, and could have given the child up under the state’s Safe Haven law. I don’t think Safe Haven laws and baby hatches lead to more abandonment– unless you’re comparing the number of abandonments to the number of murders. I’d take babies being left in hospitals and fire stations over babies being strangled, stabbed, suffocated or left to die.

    I don’t know what the hell people expect when they advocate for abstinence-only sex education (which is probably what led to my old classmate killing her baby), a ban on safe and early abortion, cutting out programs to support babies and young, uneducated mothers, and then promoting a culture in which young mothers are punished endlessly and can never be “forgiven”. My classmate lives in North Carolina, not China, but to me it’s not that much different. I don’t know my classmate’s family, but maybe when she got pregnant her family refused to allow her an abortion, refused to allow her to give the child up for adoption, and would never have allowed her to walk to the fire station and leave the baby there. Maybe they wanted to force her to give birth to and raise the child as some fucked-up punishment. I don’t understand the logic behind that thinking.

    I know in China, people are much poorer than even the poorest in North Carolina, but women aren’t treated well, and I imagine young, uneducated women have it even worse. Why are people against giving babies a chance at life? Why do they think mothers are going to hear of the baby hatches and leave kids they otherwise wanted to keep? Makes no sense.

  • Katia

    I wonder what it’s like to be a nurse/clerk/whatever in one of these (in any country) …
    Do they get excited when a new baby comes? I bet they do..

    • Rachel Sea

      Probably not. Sticking yet another child in an orphanage is not a happy moment.

  • jess

    My mother always wanted to open a safe haven in our own house.
    Although- she’s the kind of person who when she sees stories about babies being abondoned on doorsteps she cries and says “If they left the baby with me I wouldn’t tell anyone. I would just keep it and love it.”
    That’s my mother. So much love she’s crazy

  • EmmaFromÉire

    I think stuff like this is the world’s saddest situation. It SUCKS that stuff like this is needed, but having these hatches is, as you said, so much better than finding dead newborns all over town. You can’t abort, adoption is nigh on impossible and half of China is so poor having a baby isn’t viable. There was an article in New Scientist lately about how even though China is easing off their one child policy, people can’t afford more than one kid so it doesn’t matter anyway.

    Then on top of all that shit, it’s increasingly more difficult for loving people to adopt children from China, so children are stuck in orphanages, and absolutely nobody wins in this situation.

    • Katia

      I’m pretty sure you can abort and its free. There is an insane amount of forced abortions. Even if there is a small fee it would be worth it to save the trouble of the second and third trimesters. And public education is widely used and also Id be surprised if there was anything lacking in sex Ed /biology. So I don’t really get it. I know there is a huge stigma (and financial penalty?!) for being a single mother, but I’m not clear about why abortion wasn’t used, Shenzhen is the large city by the Hong Kong border, not in the middle of nowhere.
      Relatedly, there is a phenomenon of very pregnant Chinese ladies going to Hong Kong and using the hospitals there (“oops!”), not for the nicer hospitals but for the anchor babies.
      So I get the feeling these abandonned babies may be from women who came to sz from the north to work labour jobs and possibly lack the basic education that many Chinese have. Or if they don’t lack education, maybe they have no right to use the hospitals or clinics in sz because they are illegal immigrants, and don’t actually have the right to live in sz. (Their hukou (internal passport) only lets them live in their home province and to live in another place a visa would need to get apporved) Anyways, better late than never.

    • Muggle

      Denial is a very powerful thing. Some girls who find themselves pregnant just refuse to believe it and come up with excuses as to what’s happening to them. Their bellies are big because they’re just getting fat and that’s where all the weight goes. They’re nauseous because they’re having a bad reaction to their lunch. They never take pregnancy tests, so they can say they didn’t know. And sometimes, sex education is so lacking that they really, honestly do not know that they’re pregnant and don’t realize that they should take a pregnancy test.

      I’m sure the hukous and lack thereof could be a factor too (I really did not know that about China).

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      There is a problem with forced abortion there (for second babies where parents can’t afford the fee), so it is legal.

  • Kay_Sue

    Prior to our state’s Save Haven law, we had a baby known as “Baby Daniel” in my hometown. He was buried alive, in lime, in the middle of summer (our temperatures easily top out between 105 to 110 on the hottest days).

    My dad was one of the volunteer firefighters that helped search for him. When they found him alive, he was so tiny, and covered in fire ants, and it made a lasting impression on the entire community.

    These laws and safe places are crucial for these babies. Somewhere out there, “Daniel” beat the odds and he’s alive and hopefully well, but it was touch and go for a long time. It would have saved so much pain and suffering if his mother had the option. I hope she would have taken it.

  • Janok Place

    Ugh. This just killed me. I just can’t imagine. I can’t imagine doing that to any child, especially my child. To be so alone, so terrified and so hopeless that you believe this is the only way. I am so glad I don’t live somewhere where I could stumble across newborns… I don’t think I could do anything with my life except look for them and try to save them. Thank goodness they are doing something to give these women an option. It’s not ideal, but at the very least they’ve started to address the issue.

  • Sarah

    This is great! They used to have these in the olden days’ foundling hospitals. I’m all for it.