Canadian police still are searching for the parents of an infant who was abandoned Sunday behind a business in a popular Halifax shopping district.
CTV News reports two women found the baby girl wearing a diaper and a onesie and surrounded by dirty blankets on the steps behind a business Sunday evening in the Nova Scotia city. Authorities said the baby is about a month old and is African-Canadian.
The baby girl appears to be doing well. According to authorities, the temperature was unseasonably warm that evening, around 14 C (57 F), and a local hospital that examined the baby said she is healthy. The baby is being placed in foster care.
Constable Dianne Penfound told the Canadian Press that they are interviewing witnesses and looking at surveillance video from the area. She urged the baby’s parents to come forward.
“I don’t know what the circumstances are, but (we want) to find out why they felt that leaving the child where they did was the right thing to do and we’ll go from there,” Penfound said.
Unlike the United States, Canada does not have safe haven laws. All 50 states in America have some type of law that allows women to abandon their newborns at a police station or hospital without fear of prosecution.
The news of the infant abandonment has stirred up renewed calls for safe haven laws in Canada. But one Canadian leader claims the country does not need them.
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“We have a totally different health-care system that helps tremendously,” Grant Wilson, president of the Canadian Children’s Rights Council, told The Canadian Free Press. “We’ve lifted children out of living in poverty to a great degree, with a few exceptions.”
Wilson argued that cases of infant abandonment are extremely rare in Canada, and then used the Halifax baby’s case as a chance to criticize the U.S. healthcare system.
Here’s more from the report:
Wilson said the American model is based on the fact that some low-income women in the United States simply can’t afford to give birth in a hospital, which he said can cost about US$10,000 for those without private health insurance.
“We don’t need (safe haven laws) in Canada,” said Wilson, whose non-profit advocacy group has been around since the early 1990s. “We have very few cases (of child abandonment) because we’re not in the same social system.”
Ellen Campbell of Abuse Hurts, an organization that helps abuse victims, disagrees. She told CTV News that she buried six abandoned babies in Ontario. Campbell said safe haven laws would help vulnerable infants and mothers who are struggling, for whatever reason, to care for their child.
And Elisa Romano, a psychology professor at the University of Ottawa, told the Press that there is no way to know for sure the parents’ reasons for abandoning their baby girl. She said they may be struggling with mental health issues or cultural or religious stigma.
“We can guess that this mom must have been in a lot of distress and must have been feeling quite desperate to give up her baby in such a manner,” Romano said. “She could have been overwhelmed at the prospect of caring for a child.”
The United States does not keep statistics about the number of babies saved through safe haven laws, but experts have estimated the number to be in the thousands. Between 2004 and 2011, about 50 infants in Texas alone were surrendered under its safe haven law, according to the Dallas Morning News.
If you or someone you know would like more information about relinquishing a newborn baby, please call 1-866-99BABY1 or go to www.SafeHavenLaw.com.