Friday, 30 April 2010

Gynophobic notions about 'maternal instinct'.

Starting Monday May 3rd, a blue and white door located near the ER entrance at a Vancouver’s downtown hospital will open to a shelf with a bassinette where a woman can leave a newborn.

They were once called baby hatches or foundling wheels, places where troubled mothers could abandon their babies anonymously but with some assurance that the infant would be cared for. They’ve existed for as long as there have been mothers who don’t think they can care for an infant. In medieval Europe, they were usually run by convents and churches. [...]

Angel’s Cradle will be the only one of its kind in the country, the hospital said. [...] If used, the drop-off will be equipped with a 30-second timer. After that, an alarm will sound, alerting hospital staff to the baby’s presence. The hospital will post signs alerting the mother to other options besides abandonment, as well as telephone numbers to a crisis line.

The facts above were taken from this Globe & Mail article. I excised the virtual hand-wringing, righteous observations attributed to one Dr Cundiff, head of obstetrics and gynecology for Providence Health Care.

Dr. Cundiff stressed that abandoning an infant is not the preferred option for either mother or baby. It presents a raft of problems for social services agencies who must find care for an infant without knowing its medical history or where it came from.

Women who are determined to abandon their infants are often desperate, he said. “If they’ve already made the decision to abandon their baby, we should at least give them a way to do it safely for the baby. You have to think about the other person involved, and that is the little baby who is in an unsafe situation, and we have to think about their overall health and well-being.”

If that holier-than-thou and deeply gynophobic attitude doesn't make you wonder how the hell Dr Cundiff got named to the top position of a department that specializes in women's reproductive health, then ....

Oh. Wait. It must be the Peter Principle. Someone in the administration of the hospital recognized Dr Cundiff's contempt for the women in his care and got him kicked upstairs, where presumably he can't do direct harm to anyone.

Let me repeat the key piece of information in that news article: Women who are determined to abandon their infants are often desperate. “If they’ve already made the decision to abandon their baby, we should at least give them a way to do it safely for the baby.”

How do women get to that point of desperation? Shall I list the ways?
  1. Toxic family environment. Girls parented by incompetent - if not downright negligent and abusive - adults may become pregnant, deliberately or involuntarily. Faced with their own imminent motherhood and recognizing their own child might be subjected to the same forms of violence they experienced, they panic. They would rather anonymously abandon their baby than have individuals from their own or the biological father's family claim the infant.

  2. Mental health or addiction issues. Girls and women suffering from a number of complex, connected ailments such as schizophrenia may let an unwanted pregnancy progress to the point where a medical intervention would be unavailable or life-threatening. They may be only dimly aware of their condition and though the decision to abandon their newborns may not have been rigorously thought through, the option provides their infants with a future - one that they're ill-equiped to shape or share.

  3. Conflicts with legal or government officials. There are girls and women whose life history is marked by events that have marginalized them. Their survival skills are feral and sharp; if confronted with an unplanned pregnancy which they choose not to terminate, they can securely dispose of their newborns in a manner that limits their contacts with official figures that have betrayed or previously violated them.
If this all sounds terribly Dickensian and quaint, you must be living in a privileged bubble. There are wounded and traumatized girls and women living in the streets in most Canadian cities, transitioning in and out of institutionalized care, and barely capable of supporting themselves.

Several states in the U.S. have safe-haven laws, which decriminalized child abandonment as long as the children were left at safe places. St. Paul’s said Vancouver Police have agreed not to charge a mother who leaves an infant at Angel’s cradle.

If a baby is left there, the infant will be treated and handed to provincial social services. If the mother changes her mind, she can contact a social worker to discuss options, according to a hospital briefing memo.

Dr. Cundiff said he’s not happy that there is a need in Canada for a baby dropoff. “The sad truth,” he said, “is there are people in the world who don’t avail themselves of the resources out there.”

Isn't that special? Dr Cundiff must inhabit his own bubble, unable to recognize the social safety net - "the resources out there" - is an illusion that rightwing politicians and their governments claim exists though in actuality they have shredded it to bits, such as Mike Harris did in Ontario.

And of course, there are men who share the Dr's odious opinions about women; they've left comments.

AP1 said:

Baby dumps also and again deny fathers rights, and also deny the right of the baby - which is who this is supposed to be about, the right to their other relatives too. It is a convenient way for baby brokers to farm infants and it is despicable, but then again adopter/brokers are generally despicable as decent people do not sell children for a living and they do not buy them either. Also allowing baby dumps where these babies have no health history is also dangerous - but the parasites that are doing this don't care, and they allege to be medical professionals. The greed in the adoption industry gets worse every year.

Mike, abandoning a baby should never be an option. And barren couples that buy children overseas are also barren of morals. It is child trafficking, both should be illegal. There are other ways to help people without encouraging baby dumps.

Mike_Z said:

I think this is a great idea for a world where some people have to make awful decisions, and some people are simply awful people.I say the government and the public should endorse options that make the best of a bad situation. If the mother / parent does not want to care for the child, this is a far better option than simple abandonment or neglect.I should say both pro-choicers and pro-lifers should support this idea. Pro-choicer's actually (I suspect) are FORCED to like this option, since it gives women (and parents) more CHOICE. Pro-lifers should like this because it is one more option to consider instead of abortion.

Isn't it fascinating how those men who would vociferously fight and resist any institution which would FORCE them to take financial, material and emotional responsibility for babies they have spawned, are so quick and categorical in their judgements towards women who behave no worse than they do?


Anonymous said...

Welcome to Canada, where actions have no consequences, problems have no causes and everyone lives in a state of complete social vacuum.

deBeauxOs said...

Exhibit 1: Anonymous, who lives in a privileged bubble of his/her own willful obliviousness to other people's harsh realities.

Frieda Werden said...

Wow, an American doing a great, insightful, feminist analysis of events in Canada! The world is indeed turning upside down. Thank you very much.

deBeauxOs said...

Hi Frieda. We don't know if 'Anonymous' is Murrican.

However there are Canadians who express the same kind of - dare I say? - mean-spirited, reactionary 'unpatriotic' blather.

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