The Brewing “Baby Boxes” Brouhaha

There is a curious controversy brewing in Europe, about “baby boxes” and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

So-called “baby boxes” are locations, typically found outside a hospital, where a parent can leave an unwanted infant, ring a bell to summon someone to come to the child’s aid, and then vanish from the child’s life.  There are almost 200 such “baby boxes” spread throughout Europe, and since 2000 some 400 babies have been left in them.  Proponents of the practice say it is a regrettable, but nevertheless necessary, safety valve that protects a child’s life — apparently arguing that, without such an option, infants might die from neglect or an intentional act by a parent.

The UN contends that  “baby boxes” violate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  That document says every child has a right to be known and cared for by his or her parents, and the state has a “duty to respect the child’s right to maintain personal relations with his or her parent,” even if they are separated.  A UN Committee is writing to European governments that permit “baby boxes” to urge that the practice be outlawed and replaced by improved state family planning and unwanted pregnancy services.

I obviously don’t support abandonment of infants — I can’t fathom what might motivate a parent to take such a drastic action — but are “baby boxes” really a top priority in a world where outrages against children are sickeningly commonplace?  At least the relatively few infants left in “baby boxes” are in a place where they will be found, and cared for, and ultimately made available for adoption.  Consider, by comparison, the countless children who are left to die from exposure in countries where there are limits on how many children families may have, or are physically mutilated as a result of primitive beliefs, or are sold into sexual slavery, or are pressed into military service by tribal warlords, or are forced to work under horrible sweatshop conditions?

In a world of finite money and resources, wouldn’t every penny spent on the issue of “baby boxes” be much better spent on trying to end the many more widespread, life-threatening problems that are bedeviling unfortunate children around the world?