Statement of the Executive Committee of Bastard Nation on Legalized Abandonment Laws
Several states are now considering laws that legalize the anonymous abandonment of infants at predetermined drop centers. These laws, modeled after one enacted in Texas in 1999, have the appeal of presenting a simple solution to a horrible problem. The death of a newborn left in a public restroom, field, or dumpster is a tragedy calling out for an answer. Unfortunately, these laws are not that answer.
These laws are in contravention of customary international law, in particular, Articles 7 and 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. No child should be stripped of his or her identity with the collusion of the government. Countries that have enacted or tacitly allowed abandonment have done so in times of severe social upheaval, such as war or famine, or as a result of embedded archaic law and tradition. It is chilling that in a time of unrivalled prosperity and stability we are attempting to legitimize the practice of abandonment.
These laws represent a radical change in child welfare policy toward promoting rather than discouraging abandonment. These laws also run counter to the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of many statutes and initiatives, such as relinquishment revocation periods and putative birthfather registries, that empower all parties involved in a child’s life to make informed choices regarding the child’s best interest. The anonymity built into these laws opens up the door to the potential for abuse, fraud, and the worst excesses of the past, when abandonment was the norm.
The worst part of these laws is that their effectiveness is unproven. There is no evidence that the at-risk targets of these bills, mothers of newborns in crisis, will avail themselves of the mechanisms provided for legalized abandonment. Texas has already experienced the discovery of at least three infants abandoned outside its system in the three months since the new law was enacted.
We urge the amendment of these bills to fully address the human and civil rights issues of identity. We ask that reasoned discussion and debate prevail, rather than headline-grabbing quick fixes. No child should die abandoned, but no child should be left a foundling.
Executive Committee, Bastard Nation
Cynthia Bertrand Holub
January 28, 2000