Japanese baby box operator calls for law allowing ‘anonymous childbirth’ in hospitals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 4:27pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 9:21pm

The operator of Japan’s only baby hatch said on Saturday that the country should allow women in cases of unwanted pregnancy to give birth anonymously at hospitals, while ensuring the children’s right to know their mother’s identity when they grow up.

Jikei Hospital in the city of Kumamoto, southwestern Japan, said many of the women who have anonymously turned over their newborns to the hospital had given birth in precarious circumstances, such as inside cars, while being unable to tell anyone about their pregnancies.

“Allowing anonymous childbirths [in hospitals] will be effective in protecting the lives of both mothers and babies,” said deputy head of the hospital Takeshi Hasuda at a press conference.

Under the proposal, mothers who wish to give birth anonymously in hospital would leave their identities in sealed documents at an administrative institution. The hospital would help with the children’s upbringing through adoption and other means, while the children would have the right to know their mothers’ identities after reaching a certain age.

Hasuda said the hospital hopes to “discuss [the proposed system] with government officials and experts as we cannot go ahead on our own”.

He also said he believes the system is “feasible under current laws”, expressing eagerness to introduce it at his hospital soon.

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Modelled on Germany’s baby boxes, the hospital set up a hatch, called “konotori no yurikago” (the cradle of the stork), in 2007 to prevent women in cases of unwanted pregnancy from killing babies or abandoning them in unsafe conditions.

Of the 130 babies accepted through the hatch, at least 62 were born without medical help and in at least 26 cases the mothers’ identities were not known.

Germany has a law allowing anonymous childbirths in hospitals, while granting the children born the right to know their mothers’ identity once they are 16.