• Kyodo

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The planned establishment of Japan’s second baby hatch, a place where people can anonymously leave unwanted babies, in Kobe has been put off, according to the nonprofit organization preparing to manage the facility.

The NPO said Monday that it notified the Kobe Municipal Government and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry of the postponement Friday, blaming difficulties arranging to have a doctor stationed there around the clock as required by the city.

Based on the medical practitioner law, the municipal government told the organization that a doctor must be on duty at all times where this kind of service is available. Authorities made it a requirement because a medical opinion on whether to transport a baby left in the hatch to a hospital is needed immediately.

The NPO, which is based in Osaka Prefecture and is headed by Shigeki Hitomi, a professor emeritus at Kyoto University, announced last month that it plans to provide the anonymous baby drop by the end of the year.

Until now, the only place in Japan offering this kind of facility is Jikei Hospital in the city of Kumamoto.

An official from the NPO said it will first make available a 24-hour consultation service for people who are seeking advice about unwanted pregnancies or are considering giving up their child, while keeping the option open of starting a baby hatch in the future.

The hatch in Kumamoto, which was opened in 2007, has been getting around 10 babies a year. Poverty and out-of-wedlock births are some of the stated reasons for parents abandoning their babies. No cases of physical abuse have been recorded, but some of the infants have been in need of medical care.

The baby hatch service remains controversial in Japan, as opponents claim it may encourage people to abandon their baby needlessly, while supporters consider it a potential lifesaver.

Following the announcement of the second planned baby hatch, health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki said he wants people to realize there are options other than abandoning babies, citing the adoption system for children under 6 years old as an alternative.

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