Saturday, March 31, 2007


The Times of London carried a story online this past week describing how authorities in Germany are trying to deal with an increasing number of mothers who kill and abandon their babies.

Desperate mothers are being urged to drop their unwanted babies through hatches at hospitals in an effort to halt a spate of infanticides that has shocked Germany. At least 23 babies have been killed so far this year, many of them beaten to death or strangled by their mothers before being dumped on wasteland and in dustbins. Police investigating the murders are at a loss to explain the sudden surge in such cases, which have involved mothers of all ages all over the country.

Infanticide continues to fascinate and horrify our modern society. Just recently the media in my area dwelt at great length on the case of a dead baby found in an alley in a small town. The mother, when found, was a woman in her late teens and there was much speculation regarding the circumstances that led the mother to kill and abandon her child. Case such as this are widely reported in the media (and rightly so).

On another level though, it is hardly surprising that such tragic events could happen given the willingness of our society to consider the widespread abortion of babies at all stages of development. One writer correctly pointed out the absurdity of the present state of affairs by pointing out that if a woman procures the death of her child while it is still inside her womb she is merely exercising her right to reproductive choice. If however, she procures the death of a child at the same stage of development after it has emerged from the womb, then she is guilty of a crime.

It is difficult to speculate what motivates a mother to murder her newly born child. One obvious possibility is that the present state of social thinking elevates the subjective state of mind of the mother over the objective reality of the taking of another human life. In other words, the mother might feel too embarrassed, or ashamed or shy about her condition to even think about procuring an abortion and so given the ambiguities of our culture she finds the taking of the child's life after birth to be equivalent to the taking of life before birth.

It is interesting to note that in the Times story some people were opposed to the plan encouraging mothers to drop off unwanted babies at convenient spots on the grounds that this plan would encourage mothers to abandon their babies. (Would killing the babies be preferable?) Also interesting was the controversy generated when a legislator in Texas proposed paying pregnant mothers a sum of money to give birth instead of procuring an abortion.

It seems to me that our society has to rediscover the meaning of parenthood. Society today is very much oriented to the enjoyment of the present and to subjectivism. In such a climate parenthood is almost counter-intuitive. Giving birth and parenting a child involves sacrifice and a commitment to the future. Both of these are values that would make for us a better society.

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