• Thu, Jan 2 - 3:30 pm ET

Newspaper To Stop Printing Birth Announcements Because Hospitals Fear Abductions

200374290-001The Wisconsin State Journal of Madison, Wisconsin will no longer print birth announcements because two of the area’s prominent hospitals have started refusing birth information.

It was a practice that the information would only be released to the newspapers with parental consent. Now, the hospitals are refusing to release the information all together. From The Wisconsin State Journal:

Birth listings “set people up as targets for somebody who might want to steal a baby,” said Kathy Kostrivas, Meriter Hospital’s assistant vice president for women’s health services.

“It’s an effort to improve safety and security for families,” said Kim Sveum, spokeswoman for St. Mary’s Hospital.

While I am all for infant safety, I think this concern is a little misdirected. Everyone knows there are babies on birthing wings in hospitals, right? It seems more logical to focus on locking birthing floors and establishing security protocols, than to worry about birth announcements.

At least 290 babies have been abducted in the U.S. since 1983, including 132 at health care facilities, according to the center. Four cases, from 1989 to 1993, were linked by law enforcement to birth announcements, the center says.

“Our world is so different now than it was 25 to 30 years ago,” said Cathy Nahirny, the center’s senior analyst for infant abduction cases. Abductors “are using every means available to them to select a possible victim infant,” she said.

If professionals think this is a necessary step for infant safety, I’m not undercutting the seriousness of it. But I am always a little uncomfortable with the argument that our world is more dangerous now than it was 25 to 30 years ago. Is it? Or are we just more paranoid?

The information included in the State Journal’s free birth announcements was the date, hospital name, parents’ full names and sex of the baby. The announcements did not list the parents’ hometown.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • DatNanny

    On one hand I think this is paranoid and misdirected. On the other, well, I’m not sure if the rate of infant abductions is the same as with older children – where the vast majority of abductions are by family members – but I can see how there might be a situation where a couple might need this information to be kept confidential. (Say a young couple where the grandparents are pressuring them to hand the baby over to them.)

  • Rachel Sea

    Useless fear-mongering on the part of the hospital. According to FBI crime statistics, the world is actually much safer than it was 25-30 years ago. They are preventing a virtually non-existent problem, and fostering distrust in the community. That distrust makes people LESS safe, as endangered children fear to ask strangers for help, and homeowners refuse to answer the door to people in need.

  • cv

    So 132 abductions from hospitals over 30 years is about 4 per year out of roughly 4 million annual births in the United States? And as DatNanny points out, some significant number of those are probably due to conflicts with family members. Abduction is a horrible thing for the families it happens to, so reasonable security measures on hospital wards are a good idea, as is an ability to opt out of having the announcement printed in the paper for those who feel themselves to be at particular risk. That said, this ranks pretty low on the list of threats to a newborn’s well-being.

    • Blueathena623

      That has to be successful abductions, not attempted. The year and a half I worked at a hospital had at least 3 code pinks, maybe more. For one of them the lady and the baby made it as far as the front door and there was (rightly so) a big to-do and lots of drill practices, etc. And they already had the locked doors and special bands and such even before that.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Yeah, our hospital had a ton of safety measures (and it’s not even a fancy city hospital or anything) and we got to see them in practice twice due to construction which confused nurses and they used the wrong door, setting off our newborn’s alarm. The whole ward comes running when that alarm goes off! Seriously it’s pretty safe in the maternity wards.

      By the time the birth announcement is in the paper, the baby’s at home, so I’m wondering if this whole thing is about people kidnapping them from their homes (easily findable with parent names, internet or even a phone book)?

  • Lackadaisical

    I wasn’t aware that hospitals sent birth announcements to newspapers in the US or that mums and babies stayed in hospital long enough for it to be a danger. Here in the UK, if you want the birth of your baby in the paper you have to inform them yourselves. Also babies are with mothers at all times, not sent to rooms of babies that we see in American films with maternity wards (do you still have those) and most new mums are only in overnight and most mums of second babies onwards tend to leave the same day (depending on time of birth). Admittedly my first was in special care baby unit for a while but the security measures the hospital took were reassuringly paranoid. Do mums in the US really spend so long in hospital with their new babies that someone would have time to read about the baby in the papers and go to the hospital (with elaborate plans to fool the doctors and nurses who would need to check the baby out with documentation in the room/ward) and steal the baby? It seems a little far fetched.

    • Andrea

      They don’t really have those anymore either. You *can* send your baby to the nursery if you want to get some sleep or a shower (assuming there is NO ONE else with you – in most hospitals your partner can even stay with you during the night) and they go there when they get checked. But for the most part, they are with you.

    • Lackadaisical

      Unless your kid is in special care we really don’t get that option (or at least not in my local maternity). With my first I had an emergency c-section under general anesthetic with a blood transfusion and was on a morphine drip so the nurses kindly wheeled his cot to the main desk and cared for him there at 4am, for the other kids I was on my own. Partners don’t stay, but are not bound by official visiting hours, but then most mums are on a ward with other mums. I was given a room of my own when my lad went into the special care unit so that I wouldn’t be surrounded by happy mums with healthy babies, and when he was returned to me they offered to let my husband stay but it is really not the norm. The tax payer funds all of it so no luxury. I was given a cup of sweet milky tea with the second kid, even though I don’t like it sweet and like as little milk as possible. That is a bit like helping with the baby while I recover, isn’t it?

    • Andrea

      Also most moms stay a max of 48 hrs…maybe a day or two more if they have had a C-section. Not too long either.

    • Lackadaisical

      That sounds ages to me. With my third child I was there for 6 hours, so a doctor visited me at home the next day. It would have been the same for my second but he was born at night so we had to wait until the next day for a pediatrician to check us out. I was in for a long while with my first but if he hadn’t gone into special care I would have been out sooner. Friends with normal ceasareans were out in 24 hours. First time mums often stay in for 24 hours I believe. While it is wonderful that tax payers foot all bills and the maternity pay is generous because it is all state funded they like you to vacate the bed for the next patient as quickly as possible.

  • SusannahJoy

    Yay, Paranoia is so fun!

  • Andrea

    I honestly cannot figure out how a baby would get stolen from a hospital. When I had my babies, the security was tighter than a maximum security prison. The baby had a ankle monitor thingie, he had a bracelet that matched mine. I was not allowed to go anywhere outside my room holding a baby and neither was anyone else. If anyone got as far as a door holding a baby, they would be immediately stopped and the alarm would go off locking down the entire maternity ward.
    I thought it was horribly paranoid but the nurse said, better safe than sorry. I guess that’s kinda how I feel about this too. I don’t think a birth announcement is a big deal; if you want one, place it yourself after you get home.

  • Kay_Sue

    I think it has less to do with hospital abductions and more to do with the perceived risk to newborns and parents of newborns. Thanks to the media’s constant cycle of sensational stories, we’ve been treated to several cases in the last few years–from the woman who was home alone with her newborn and had her throat slashed, to the mother in Texas that was fatally shot to a woman near where I live who actually had her baby removed by amateur cesarean. It’s easy to see why these cases tug on the heartstrings of a multitude of people from various backgrounds–we place a lot of emphasis on that mother/baby bond and to see it so violently and forcibly violated by an outsider is terrifying and shocking. I can see these stories as more fodder than the actual hospital abductions–everyone knows that birthing wings are full of babies. Everyone also knows that there are pretty tight security protocols. The time, then, when the baby would be most vulnerable is when they are home with their parents, and it wouldn’t take much from the name and area the announcement ran in to figure out where to find one.

    I do think that it is crazy paranoid, myself, but I can quasi-see the rationale behind the decision.

  • Suzie

    My understanding is that it’s not to preven abductions from the hospital, as the birth announcements don’t even print until after mom and baby are discharged, but to prevent abductions from homes.

    I am an OB nurse, I always discourage parents from posting on FB (publicly) and from putting balloons/storks/etc on their front lawns. So very true that hospitals have made it nearly impossible to steal a baby, but now people who really want to steal an infant will do it from homes.

    • Suzie

      )Also, both of the hospitals in my community have done away with newspaper announcments, if the parents want it, they have to do it on their own)

  • Paul White

    4 cases linked to birth announcements…in how many years? And they’re treating it as as erious risk?