Rabbit Holes is the semi-regular reaction-style series where I share baby-related news or media that I think you’d be interested in. So without further ado…
Table of Contents
Safe Haven Baby Drop Boxes
On March 9th 2021, Brooke Hasch reported for an ABC affiliate that Kentucky could be the next stop for Safe Haven Baby Boxes. If you aren’t familiar with Safe Haven laws, they are intended to reduce infanticide by providing safe places for people to anonymously relinquish newborns, without legal consequences.
The laws regarding just how anonymous it is are different across states, but for the most part, where they exist, hospitals, fire- and police- stations and sometimes public libraries, are safe haven locations. However, walking up to or into one of these locations and leaving a baby is not exactly low-key, surveillance cameras will be on you at the very least, and it’s very likely someone will try to chase you down because you forgot your baby, blablahblah.
The Baby Boxes are intended to make the drop-off more private. The person leaving a baby goes to a secure box located along an exterior wall of a building, places the baby inside and then leaves, and someone inside the building can then collect the baby. This isn’t a new idea, in fact, it was used in the middle ages. One example I read about involved a rotating trough that slid out of an exterior wall of a church or monastery for the baby to be placed in, then slid back into the wall and rotated to dump the baby inside and clear the trough for the next infant.
While the Safe Haven and baby boxes may reduce infanticide, they are so rarely used that gathering data is difficult. Having the option available is good but I want to emphasize that they are not an alternative to abortion because of that little insignificant thing called gestation and childbirth.
Hasch, Brooke. 9 March 2021. “Kentucky could be next stop for Safe Haven Baby Boxes.” ABC: WHASII.
- History of Yesterday- child abandonment in medieval times
- Religion Unplugged- the pro-life movement in the 12-13th century
- Reuters- Italy Reinvents the wheel to save abandoned babies
- Calameo- 14th cen illuminated manuscript with story of Pope Innocent’s decree to install foundling wheels
- (and of course) Wikipedia- Baby Hatch
Abandoned Babies at the Beach
In the same vein as the previous Rabbit Hole, from Southend in Essex (UK), Emma Palmer starts with a nod to baby boxes being installed in Spain and then gets into the history of abandoned babies in her area. One story is about Mary Ruse, who after concealing her pregnancy (likely to keep her job) gave birth in October of 1890, on the roof of the house she worked at. Mary then wrapped the baby in an apron and placed it in the dustbin. When the baby was found it was taken to the Rochford Workhouse.
Mary was dismissed (fired from her job) and possibly arrested for a time but one of Mary’s friends went to the workhouse, collected the baby and brought it back to Mary and told her to kiss it. It is believed that Mary then kept the baby, a heartwarming tale of a single, unemployed girl with an illegitimate child in Victorian England. I’m sure they had a lovely life.
The article goes on to describe a number of stories of babies abandoned in the area, many of them taken to the workhouse, despite the fact that Southend’s Nazareth House (home to nuns) accepted abandoned babies.
Palmer, Emma. 12 March 2021. “Southend memories: Abandoned babies left on the beach.” Newsquest: Echo.
Was It Genetics? Or Murder?
Moving along to Damien Cave’s article in the New York Times about Kathleen Folbigg, an Australian woman sentenced to forty years in prison in 2003 for the murder of her four children by smothering before they reached age two. She’s never confessed, always maintaining that they died of SIDS.
Now a group of ninety scientists say that their deaths were caused by genetic issues. But will she be pardoned by the judicial system? The deaths of her children occurred starting in 1989 into the 1990s, at the height of the SIDS-Murder revelations in the media. I’ve covered the stories of Waneta Hoyt and Stephen Van Der Sluis in my SIDS Series. They and a handful of other parents who murdered their children got away with it during the ’60s and ’70s due to a climate of political correctness, which required that any parent who claimed SIDS as the cause of their child’s death not be investigated because it could hurt their feelings.
One of the consequences of extremism in one direction is an overcorrection in the opposite direction. Was Folbigg a victim of that overcorrection? Or is it a matter of medical science progressing and finding diagnoses where before we only SIDS or murder? One of the things held against her included a diary entry in which she said she was her father’s daughter: her father was a murderer, in fact, he murdered her mother.
Cave, Damien. 8 March 2021. “She Was Imprisoned for Killing Her 4 Children. But Was It Their Genes All Along?” NYT
Babies Usefully Useless
Father-to-be Ray Miller-Still wrote an article for the Courier-Herald about how our babies’ helplessness is actually a good thing, necessary for learning. He very diplomatically touches on the horrid Obstetrical Dilemma, not quite coming out with the fact of the matter (that it’s total BS) but he heaps on the alternative explanations for our infants’ helplessness. If you’re intrigued by this article you might be interested in a few of my blog posts on secondary altriciality and my Squished series debunking the OD.
Miller-Still, Ray. 5 March 2021. “Babies are useless for some pretty useful reasons.” Courier-Herald.
Breastmilk Processing Plant
Europe’s first breastmilk processing plant opened in Redditch, Worcestershire (UK). The facility started setting up about a year ago and now it has produced the first powdered supplement for preemies made entirely of human milk.
The company behind it is Neokare, founded by Saurabh Aggarwal and his father. They opened their first milk bank in Australia in the early 2000s and run a sister company in India processing human milk for preemies there. They use milk from screened donors but there isn’t information about whether donors are compensated.
In the US, there is a similar company, Medolac Company which opened in Boulder City, Colorado in 2018. They are a public benefit corporation and they pay their milk donors, which make on average $800/month.
Neokare has a special process to create a powdered product that concentrates protein that preemies need and preemies can be fed their product in combination with their own mother’s milk, if available.
“We are not adding any chemicals or additives. It is simply the way we are processing and concentrating the milk that allows us to retain the properties and to increase the protein content. The alternatives today are bovine-based fortifier and preterm formula.”
Bradshaw, Julia. 15 March 2021. “Europe’s first breast milk processing plant opens in Redditch.” The Telegraph via MSN.
Forced Sterilization in Peru
Now we’re shifting into some darker territory, forced sterilization, so reader discretion is advised.
Nusta Carranza Ko wrote an article for The Conversation (note: this is not a great place for unbiased journalism, nor academic rigour but every now and then an article with substance rises to the top).
Ko wrote about the sterilization of over 250k Peruvian women between 1996 and 2001 under the auspices of dictator Alberto Fujimori. His government were focusing their “family planning” efforts on the “Indian Problem”.
Fujimori and his cronies believed that indigenous women were having too many babies. Since 1998 and to this day, women who were forcibly sterilized are demanding justice for the politicians and doctors who performed tubal ligations without consent and for the complications of the procedure they’ve suffered.
Carranza Ko, Ñusta. Undated. “Forcibly sterilized during Fujimori dictatorship, thousands of Peruvian women demand justice.” The Conversation.
In Canada, Laura Clementson, Vik Adhopia and Andrew Culbert collaborated on this article from the CBC about women who are fighting for compensation over complications of the Essure implant manufactured by Bayer since 2013 (but developed by a U.S. company called Conceptus Inc and brought to the Canadian market in 2002).
This device was intended to be a non-surgical alternative to tubal ligation, however, the device caused serious complications which include: perforation and adhesions, infections, and extreme abdominal and pelvic pain. In addition, the device was brittle, when it breaks it creates shrapnel that cannot be completely removed without a hysterectomy.
Some women complain of more systemic health problems such as autoimmune reactions for women with metal allergies (it contained nickel FFS), and they have reported hair and tooth loss. And just when you think it couldn’t get worse: many women ended up with unintended pregnancies when the devices failed.
The Essure Problems support groups on Facebook started making complaints to the FDA in 2012. As late as 2015, UK regulators were assuring women Essure was safe despite complaints coming from the U.S. The device was pulled off the market in Canada in 2017 and globally in 2018, settling American lawsuits for $1.6 billion, and now it’s the turn of Canadian women.
Clementson, Laura, Vik Adhopia, Andrew Culbert. 4 March 2021. “Women in Canada turn to courts in fight for compensation over birth control implant complications.” CBC News.
- Block, Jennifer. 26 July, 2017. “The Controversy Over Essure.” Washington Post.
- Roberts, Michelle. 4 Oct, 2015.”Women reassured over safety of Essure birth control implant.” BBC News.
Mothers: Societies Safety Net
Rickey Gard Diamond wrote an article for Ms Magazine about the petition for creating a kind of Marshall Plan for mothers who have been affected by the pandemic, in terms of lost income due to childcare as well as compensating them for domestic work.
In case you didn’t know, the original Marshall Plan was in 1948 by the US, which involved giving more than $15billion for rebuilding Europe following WWII. The current petition is calling for monthly payments to moms and to pass policies like “paid family leave, affordable child care and pay equity.”
The article notes that in the UK following WWI, suffragist Eleanor Rathbone’s research showed how female-headed households struggled to survive if they didn’t receive checks from their deployed spouses. Following WWII, the British parliament passed a Mother’s Allowance, “a universal per child government check sent direct to every mom in England, regardless of income”.
There is a framework for this kind of thing, a kind of universal basic income for mothers. However, I wouldn’t tie it to mothers but to the child themselves so that we aren’t discriminating against fathers. But there are arguments that that doesn’t go far enough, for example, in the U.S. in 1966 the National Welfare Rights Organization argued that women’s unpaid work in the home deserved financial compensation. But tying government payments for “unpaid work in the home” seems like it would require a whole lot of government overreach: have you done the dishes today? hows the laundry looking? You call that dinner? Some stay-at-home-moms don’t do work in the home, they make work for other people to do (you know who you are). Either pay people because they are people or don’t pay them at all, but let’s not presume all unemployed spouses or parents are busting their chops as homemakers and active parents.
GARD DIAMOND, Rickey. 1 March 2021. “Other Countries Have Safety Nets. The U.S. Has Mothers.” Ms Magazine.
Child Rights Manifesto
In India, The Tamil Nadu Child Rights Watch (TNCRW) published its Child Rights Manifesto, which aims to reduce the sex ratio by monitoring and preventing female infanticide in Tamil Nadu, a state in southeast India. This includes strengthening the laws that prohibit sex-selection of embryos and fetuses using diagnostic technology. Along with other child-protection organizations, they want to expand free (and compulsorily) schooling from newborn to 18 years of age, as an effort to monitor the health and welfare of children.
25 Feb 2021. “Child Rights Manifesto released.” The Hindu.
Youngest SMA Patient Treated
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, four-day-old Lexa James became the youngest person to receive the gene replacement therapy drug Zolgensma for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).
“It works by replacing the function of the missing gene. By attaching to the DNA without altering it, it helps the motor neuron cells to make necessary proteins. It only requires one dose. However, it is also the most expensive drug out there with a $2.1 million dollar price tag.”
Her big brother, Axel, was diagnosed with SMA at four weeks old, and though he has received a few treatments, he has a tracheotomy, a nighttime ventilator, and requires a wheelchair.
One in fifty Americans are carriers for SMA, but they don’t realize they’re carriers until a child is born and diagnosed with it. Due to the progression of the disease, the sooner people with SMA get treatment, the better their outcomes, which is why her parents are advocating for adding SMA screening to the standard newborn screening in Lousiana. Lexa was screened for it before birth, but only because her parents were prepared. It is the only reason her family had enough time to be able to fight with the insurance companies to approve the drug for her first treatment at such a young age.
It is hoped that by preventing the death of motor neurons she could live asymptomatic. Her parents already see major differences between her and her brother at the same age, at three weeks old, she is breathing just fine and moving her arms and legs, while Axel already needed to be intubated.
Best wishes to the entire James family.
Vowell, Elizabeth. 23 Feb 2021. “Newborn becomes youngest patient to receive lifesaving $2 million treatment.” KSLA12
History of Our Teeth
And for a quick, fun one from Science Friday, on the history of our teeth. It’s about the evolution of our teeth and why we have to go through two sets, as well as how our ancestors took care of their teeth.
Flatow, Ira. 5 March 2021.“Talking Through The History Of Our Teeth.” Science Friday.
That will do it for this one! I hope you enjoyed it, if you did, please like, and subscribe so you can get a notification of my next post. If you want to help support the channel, become a patron of The Baby Historian on Patreon.