It sounds like something out of a Lifetime movie, but it really happened: a full term newborn baby was found in the manger of a nativity scene inside a church in Queens on Monday.
— NBC10 Philadelphia (@NBCPhiladelphia) November 25, 2015
In New York, churches are protected by safe haven laws — laws that create safe spaces for people to leave unwanted infants without fear of prosecution. Unfortunately, the law requires that anyone leaving a baby must notify someone of the infant’s presence. Since this mom failed to do that, police are searching for her, and there’s a very real chance she could be prosecuted.
Despite the fact that all 50 states in the U.S. currently have safe haven laws on the books, giving up a baby is still seen as taboo. On the New York Times post, there were some commenters who applauded the woman for trying to do the right thing, but there were many more ready to pounce on her for giving up her baby at all. Wrote one commenter, “She [the mom] did one of the most monstrous things a person can do short of murdering her own child.”
In the wake of that type of harsh judgment, it’s easy to feel like women simply can’t win in these situations. Every day, more and more people are pushing for laws that limit sex education, restrict access to birth control, and try to prevent women from being able to get safe, legal abortions. Now, we’re apparently judging them for dropping their baby off at safe haven locations too.
Obviously we don’t know this woman’s circumstances, but we do know that thousands of women end up with babies they don’t want or can’t keep, for whatever reason. In Texas alone, a recent University of Texas study showed up to 240,000 women have tried to dangerously induce their own abortions after the majority of the state’s clinics were shuttered by restrictive legislation. When women don’t have options, they suffer, and so do their babies.
This woman — whoever she is — did what she could to give her baby a fighting chance. She probably needs medical attention and may be going through a rough time. She could probably use assistance, but can’t ask for it for fear of judgment, persecution, and now, serious legal repercussions. It’s easy to sit in judgment of things we don’t understand, but maybe instead of hurling insults at her from atop our high horses, we should ask ourselves why women are forced into such helpless situations in the first place.
(Featured image via Shutterstock)