The Chinese authorities have set up 25 so called ‘baby hatches’ with the aim of establishing many more (BBC, 2014). These baby hatches allow parents to safely abandon their unwanted babies most of whom have disabilities or serious illnesses. According to the China Centre for Children’s Welfare and Adoption, parents place the child in the hatch – which is fitted with an incubator – press an alarm and then leave, remaining wholly anonymous. It could be argued that this is endorsing a cowardly attitude as the scheme essentially allows parents to drop and run without incurring any punishments or judgement; despite abandonment being illegal. However, in reality these hatches have the ability to save lives in an authoritarian state, within which 100 000 children are abandoned each year (McKirdy, 2014).
The hatches are designed to protect the country’s abandoned infants (McKirdy, 2014). Despite the finger being pointed at the one child policy and thus gender discriminatory abandonment, the statistics suggest a largely even split between boys and girls (BBC, 2014). However, almost all of the infants abandoned at hatches suffer from disabilities. Children are often given up due to disabilities or severe illness, largely because parents do not have the necessary means to care for such disabilities. The hatches provide the infants a fighting chance. Once the alarm has been sounded by the parents, the child is essentially ‘rescued’ and taken to a hospital where it will be cared for. The alternative to this strategy is that the child would be ‘dumped’ and typically left to die – unless it is found. Perhaps then, the hatches are a positive addition to a country within which child abandonment is disappointingly high.
Some criticise the hatches, stating that they encourage parents to give up babies with deformities by making the process easier. A baby hatch in Nanjing was describe as ‘crowded with visitors’ as the hatch saw parents drop off babies at the facility everyday (McKirby, 2014). However, the original baby hatch in Shijazhuang reported comparable numbers of infants being abandoned prior and post instalment (McKirby, 2014). This suggests that fears that parents will make the decision about abandoning a baby much more easily are unfounded. The hatches simply provide a safety net which arguably would not be needed if infrastructure was provided to give parents of disabled and severely ill children added support.
In a country such as Britain, where child abandonment is rare and often considered as horrific and unacceptable, these ‘baby hatches’ seem nauseating. However, China is a country which deals with child abandonment on a daily basis. These ‘baby hatches’ simply provide the infants – which would otherwise be dumped on doorsteps – a chance to survive. The development of these hatches is essentially a frank and honest admission that the infrastructure is not working. It is an acknowledgement that change needs to occur. Perhaps instead of looking at the Chinese authorities as repugnant for designing such a scheme, recognise their move towards change. These hatches are not designed to endorse abandonment, they are designed to save lives.
BBC (2014) ‘China expands abandoned baby hatch scheme’ [Available At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-26219171 – (Accessed -16th of February)]
McKirdy, E (2014) ‘China’s ‘baby hatch’ numbers set to increase’, CNN. 17th of February [Available At: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/17/world/asia/china-baby-hatch/index.html?eref=edition – (Accessed 17/02/2014)]