Infant abandonment in ancient times, and now

In ancient times many civilizations abandoned infants, for various reasons. Unwanted babies were thrown in ravines, malformed infants were killed, and sometimes children were sold into slavery during hard times. Pope Innocent III decided to step in during the 12th century and create “drop off centers”. These served as places where mothers could put babies in the hands of the church, without fear of being seen. This was called a “foundling wheel”, which consisted of a barrel that the infant could be placed in on the outside, and it then spun towards the inside of the church.

This same practice, with different methods, has been brought back in modern times in Europe, due to the amount of dead infants found in garbages. These days the barrels have been replaced with incubators. The mothers anonymity is still safe, however, because there is an alarm that only goes off after the mother has left. This ensures that she has time to say goodbye before aid for the infant comes.

It is assumed that most of these abandoned infants are coming from young immigrant mothers who are afraid to go to the hospital, for fear of getting thrown out of the country. Even though in the 19th century the laws changed to allow mothers to give birth anonymously and leave the infant with the hospital, it is still against the law to abandon the infant in a situation that puts the child in danger.

Jennifer Poulos

~ by sun71 on September 13, 2009.

2 Responses to “Infant abandonment in ancient times, and now”

  1. This is an interesting phenomenon when discussing universal health care. As we all need access to health care, it’s evident that some have far less than others. If a baby is sick, its clear that the sickness needs to be responded to asap (as infant trauma’s seem to affect far worse long term in comparison to trauma’s occurring in the latter). If an infant is neglected of health care, the infant’s trauma, illness, or etc could also adversely affect numerous others along the way of being deprived of access to health care. Great post, yet what a dilemna!

  2. This is a bittersweet topic. To give up an infant, in any type of situation is heartbreaking, but it is fantastic that there are places where they can be left safaly. I only wish these opportunities were used to their fullest, and we never heard about the tragic infant abandonment.

    Rebekah Pinegar

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