In May 2006, Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto City set up a “baby post” in which women who have unexpected or unwanted pregnancies and have difficulty in raising children can leave their newborn babies.
The post, named “konotori no yurikago (stork’s cradle),” is actually a clean baby bed. Mothers from various parts of Japan have used this bed, the nation’s only bed of its kind. This underlines the need to improve services nationwide to give advice and support to women who need help facing unexpected or unwanted pregnancy.
According to the hospital, a total of 83 babies have been deposited in the baby post — 17 in fiscal 2007, 25 in fiscal 2008, 15 in fiscal 2009, 18 in fiscal 2010 and eight in fiscal 2011. The trend in the number shows that the baby post did not encourage the “abandoning” of newborn babies there. The babies are being raised at social welfare facilities or by foster parents.
This is because the hospital made efforts to help women in a difficult situation. Besides installing the baby post, it set up a notice board saying that the hospital is providing 24-hour telephone service to such women. It made special efforts to persuade such women to give up their newborn babies to “special adoption,” under which adopted babies are given the same treatment as real children in the family register.
Because the name of the real mother is not disclosed in the register, couples who want to adopt babies have less of a psychological hurdle to overcome and are more likely to do so.
The hospital’s statistics show that women who have used the baby post came from various parts of Japan — 8 percent from Kumamoto Prefecture, 25 percent from other parts of Kyushu and the remaining from remote regions like Kinki, Chubu and Kanto.
The reasons given in multiple answers by these women for resorting to the baby post include: poverty (17 cases), parents’ opposition to having babies (10), being unmarried (28), illicit sexual relations (14) and saving face or relatives’ opposition to putting the baby on the family register (21).
Clearly more effort needs to be made to help women who find themselves in a difficult situation because of unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. In July 2011, the health and welfare ministry told local governments to open sections to give advice and support to such women even if they remain anonymous at women’s centers and child guidance offices.
Local governments should quickly follow the ministry’s instruction and publicize the opening of such sections.
On June 17, over a dozen doctors and social welfare workers from across the nation established an association to make arrangements for special adoption.
On June 25, Mayor Seishi Koyama of Kumamoto City, which is overseeing the baby post operation, called on health and welfare minister Yoko Komiyama to disseminate more widely information on the special adoption system, among other things.
These are reasonable moves since the system is not widely known among people. Both the central and local governments must make serious efforts to let people know about the special adoption system and other support measures so that women can give birth to babies with less worry.