Anonymous childbirth: an unknown alternativeCaterina Milo | June 22, 2017
Recently in Italy, there have been two cases of neonatal abandonment. Two mothers in Trieste and Settimo Torinese have abandoned their babies in the street, resulting in the inevitable death of both babies. These tragic stories raise some questions: is there any alternative to these tragic scenarios? Is abortion the only alternative for unexpected pregnancies and neonatal abandonment? The Italian legal framework provides a different solution by allowing anonymous childbirth namely the possibility for a mother to give birth and to remain unnamed.This might a possible third way, often unknown, to handle unwanted pregnancies.
“Unwanted”, “unexpected” are some of the adjectives that qualify many pregnancies nowadays. A feeling of fear, incapability to cope with a crucial event, loneliness might be some of the driving forces which lead a woman to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Whether by leaving the baby alone in the street or in an abortion clinic, the only possible choice seems to be death over life.
However, the Italian legal framework provides a possible third way: anonymous childbirth (DPR 396/2000). Anonymous childbirth legally recognizes the right of a pregnant woman to give birth anonymously. Thus, the baby will be “born from a woman who does not want to be mentioned”. In other words, the birth certificate will not mention the mother and her name will be kept secret. The Department of Health recognizes an absolute right to privacy of the anonymous mother. This right will be protected against any future request of information disclosure.
Along with protection of mother’s right to privacy such legislation also protects the rights of the children. It not only protects their right to life, but also their right to be raised and educated in a family environment. After birth, the Italian public authorities declare the adoptability of these children, beginning an adoption procedure. This legislation provides the possibility to guarantee the right to be raised by two adoptive parents.
There is also the possibility to leave a baby in a safe, legal and anonymous environment.
Public and private hospitals, churches, convents and other private structures are some of the places where it is possible to leave a child anonymously and safely.
They are called “baby-cots for life” and they are open 24/7.
There are fifty-five baby-cots all over Italy.
In these places, mothers can push a button, wait for a window to be opened and leave their baby in a cot. After that, the window will close down again and the baby will be under the care of the security service which will be also in charge of the adoption procedure.
The Italian legal framework proves to be a valid legal tool to protect both mothers and children.
It grants the possibility to respect the mother’s right to privacy while assuring respect for the child’s right to life and right to be raised and educated in a family environment.
However, the number of anonymous childbirth is constantly declining. Tragic events, like those in Trieste and Settimo Torinese, call politicians and the entire civil society to raise major awareness of similar legal tools.
A third way is indeed often unknown, but not impossible.