Giving Birth? Who DOES That Anymore?

(photo: Image Credit: “WiLPrZ”, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Indiana has installed two Safe Haven drop boxes for unwanted newborns, and the Knights of Columbus have pledged to fund the installation of one hundred boxes in the state. There are safe haven laws in all fifty states, allowing parents to leave their unharmed newborns in a designated spot without being prosecuted for abandonment. 

I first saw the story in reported in Gawker. The title and tag are defensively jocular, but the story itself is delivered fairly straight:

Republican state Rep. Casey Cox told the AP at the time that the book drop for babies was a “natural progression” of safe haven laws that permit parents to give up their newborns at hospitals and police stations without fear of prosecution. But even though there are safe haven laws enacted in all 50 states, thousands of abandoned children slipped through the cracks.

Dawn Geras, president of the Save the Abandoned Babies Foundation in Chicago, said safe haven laws have resulted in more than 2,800 safe surrenders since 1999. But more than 1,400 other children have been found illegally abandoned, nearly two-thirds of whom died.

The Indiana boxes are produced by a company called Safe Haven Baby Boxes, which was founded by Monica Kelsey, a firefighter and paramedic who has been advocating for baby drops for years. (Kelsey’s mother, a rape survivor, abandoned her at the hospital where she was born.) The Knights of Columbus of Indiana have promised to pay for the first 100 boxes to be installed.

The box automatically locks and signals emergency dispatchers, so babies are retrieved from the padded, climate-controlled boxes within five minutes. Pretty straightforward win. Mothers can remain anonymous and avoid prosecution, and babies don't slowly suffocate in a toilet or dumpster. Even if you don't care about the suffering of full-term babies, most people can agree that drop boxes are better for women than the emotional and legal consequences of just dumping the baby and walking away. 

So, then, the comments.

I know, I know: never read the comments. But they really are part of the story, because they succinctly illustrate the way we always talk about unplanned pregnancy in the U.S.: a story about unwanted babies is always a story about abortion, and a story about abortion is a story about how women are to blame, because women give birth, and that is the one thing that women must not do.

Here are a few comments:

This is apparently preferable to abortion? What a sad commentary on our society.


I assume this must be part of the anti-abortion thing.

And another:

F*** no it’s not better than abortions. What do you think happens to all those babies, even if they were rescued? Who raises them? Do you think life in foster care is a picnic? 

Another commenter takes up the foster care idea, saying:

[An abandoned baby] will go from home to home inevitably getting abused physically and/ or sexually and definitely be a meal ticket to many of those foster parents, along the way. At 18,now grown baby will be tossed out to fend for themselves without support and with all sorts of emotional trauma to overcome, whether they turn to crime or drugs to cope they will end up in and out of jail. Essentially that baby will be a meal ticket all their life for everyone from neglectful foster parents, overwhelmed social workers to the incarceration system.

(Never mind that the woman who founded the baby box program in question was, herself, an abandoned baby conceived in rape. All foster children are abused and turn to crime; better kill 'em.)

A number of commenters pursue the inevitable argument that abortion is the solution because it unmakes the problem.  There is no argument against murder, they say, as long as the child is too undeveloped to realize it's being murdered. They're not aware, so who cares? (Never mind that, by this argument, we could ethically smother these commenters in their sleep, as long as the smotherer is careful not to wake them in the process.)

All of these arguments turn up every time, and it doesn't matter that they are nonsensical. They feel sharp and darkly humorous, so they pass.

Eventually, the commenters work their way around to that same old, same old, same old answer: this wouldn't be a problem if we had more contraception. Here's one:

 Their solution reminds me of that old country tale about the mountain with dangerous roads. The story goes that people were dying driving up and down this big mountain because the roads were in need of repair. The mayor of the town comes up with this solution to the problem: build more hospitals at the bottom of the mountain.

and another:

This is all well and good, I guess, but it completely glosses over the question of why the need for boxes for people to abandon their babies in even exists. Could it be because Indiana’s sex education –program is not doing a good enough job educating kids about sex? Perhaps the fact that Indiana is going to pass restrictive abortion laws - on top of their already restrictive abortion laws - is also germane here.

No, that’s neither here nor there. The issue is we’ve got lots of babies that need abandonin’, so we need more boxes. Maybe boxes that have locks, so everything’s perfectly safe. Problem solved!

Never mind that, according to Planned Parenthood's own research arm, most women who seek abortions were using contraception when they conceived. Let me say that again: More than half of all abortions are performed on women who were using contraception. Here's what Planned Parenthood says:

More than half of women obtaining abortions in 2000 (54%) had been using acontraceptive method during the month they became pregnant. 

The problem is not that we're not using contraception. 

The CDC said in 2010

Contraceptive use in the United States is virtually universal among women of reproductive age… But that does not mean that contraceptive use in the United States is completely consistent or effective. One-half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and the average probability of an unintended pregnancy in 12 months of contraceptive use in the United States is 12%, unchanged from 1995.

Here's Ann Ferudi, when she was director of the largest abortion provider in Britain:

Women cannot manage their fertility by means of contraception alone. 

So much for the idea that more contraceptive access would make Safe Haven laws unnecessary. 

The problem is not that we don't have enough education about all the various ways to prevent pregnancy. The problem, if you want to call it that, is that sex makes babies, and when we pretend it doesn't, then we end up with, as the commenter said, "lots of babies that need abandonin'."

And lots of women that need a talkin' to, too, for having those babies in the first place.

Note the disdain of his tone. Note how he speaks of women in what any normal person can identify as an extremely traumatic crisis. These women, he implies, are idiots, bumpkins, morons. Putting a baby in a box? Who DOES that? Not aborting the baby? Who DOES that? Getting pregnant? Who DOES that? Why didn't they just use contraception in the first place, and then use Plan B when the contraception failed, and then get an abortion if they missed their window for Plan B? What kind of fool actually gives birth these days?

One commenter actually says it:

I'm against pregnancy.

Scratch a pro-choicer, and you're likely to find someone who despises women for their fertility. The very idea that they might get pregnant is enough to make them guilty. 

Babies come from women, so we know who to blame when babies keep turning up. We tell women over and over and over again that the worst thing that can happen to you is to have baby. The worst thing that can happen to a baby is for it to be born. The worst thing that can happen to the world is for your baby to be in it.

Of course they throw their babies away. They've just given birth, they're bleeding and alone, and all the "pro-choice crowd wants to talk about is how they never should have been pregnant in the first place. You tell me who hates women: the ones who want to rescue their children and shield them them from prosecution? Or the ones who want to heap scorn on their head for being fool enough to give birth?