MPs push for anonymous births

18-08-2003

A recent case in which a mother abandoned her baby boy in a public place a few days after the birth, has reopened debate on the need for legislation which would enable pregnant women to give birth anonymously.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Kristian was lucky -his mother cared enough to leave him in a GP's empty waiting room so that he would get immediate care. But other unwanted babies are far less lucky - their mothers abandon them in out of the way places where the risk of being seen or caught in the act is slight. There have been cases of babies strangled at birth and thrown into garbage containers in an effort to hide unwanted pregnancies. This has led a group of MPs -mainly deputies for the Civic Democratic Party and the Christian Democrats - to push for a law which would allow women to take shelter in birth clinics far from home where they could spend the last days or weeks of pregnancy, give birth anonymously and give their baby up for adoption.

A proposed law on anonymous births was overturned two years ago on the grounds that a child should have the right to know who its parents are. The bill's advocates are now preparing a more moderate version according to which the name of one or both parents would be kept in a secret file at the health ministry - a step that would enable a biological parent to be contacted in the event of critical health problems.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK A semi anonymous clinic -the only one of its kind in the Czech Republic - is located in the west Bohemian town of As. Over the past 7 years of its existence 41 women have availed themselves of the opportunity to leave their homes, give birth under proper medical supervision and leave their babies behind with a minimum of questions asked. The clinic operates on the margin of the law- requesting only the most basic information from the mother on the promise that any information given will be treated as highly confidential. The price for accommodation is 120 crowns per day -which in combination with health insurance is affordable for even the less well off.

The idea is to enable such anonymous birth programmes in all maternity hospitals in the Czech Republic - on the grounds that the arrangement would save lives - possibly several a year. The proposal is to be debated in Parliament sometime in the autumn and although its fate is uncertain it stands more chance of gaining approval than a recent Christian Democrat proposal to ban abortions outright which was swept off the table at government level. The advocates of anonymous births claim that more women might re-consider having an abortion if the state could guarantee confidentiality.

18-08-2003