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Infant Abandonment Legalization Debated

The baby left in a basket on a well-off citizen’s doorstep is an old cliche. Desperate mothers, driven by the shame of illegitimacy or by poverty, would deposit their infants with a family known for its kindness and financial stability. Today, however, it’s more common to read of the newborn left to die in a dumpster by a young mother desperate to hide her secret from family and friends.

Some states are now considering giving mothers who do not wish to raise their infants another option: the choice of leaving their unwanted newborn at a hospital without facing prosecution for abandonment or child cruelty. In 1999 Texas passed a law allowing mothers to leave babies at hospitals, and the Georgia legislature has been debating a bill that would legalize abandonment. California, Minnesota and New York have also considered abandonment legalization.

Supporters of such legislation believe it would save the lives of babies who might otherwise be left to die. Opponents believe the measures might encourage more moms to give up their babies in the first stressful days of motherhood, would take away parental rights from fathers and would make it more difficult to trace children’s medical histories.

Texas allows mothers to legally abandon their infants up to 30 days old at firehouses or hospitals. George would only give mothers one week after the child’s birth to decide to abandon it with staff members at selected facilities.