Education can keep angels out of the garden

Xelena Gonzalez and Xelena Gonzalez

Burying a child is any mother’s worst nightmare. Imagine burying 39 in only three years. Debi Faris of Yucaipa, Calif., has done just that, creating a small cemetery she calls the Garden of Angels.

A mother of three healthy children, Faris has put her time and money into providing proper burials and grave sites for infants abandoned in nearby Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. She marks each site with a name and the date of the baby’s birth and murder.

Faris has become an advocate for new legislation that gives legal protection to mothers who abandon their babies with designated officials such as firefighters and emergency room personnel. Texas was the first state to enact such a law last September. Since then, 23 other states have proposed similar legislation.

Opponents of these new programs and laws argue that mothers are relieved of all responsibility and accountability, offering them an easy way out. A wake-up call to you readers who feel the same: It is NEVER easy for a mother to give up her child, before or after birth. The notion of assisting a woman in a state of desperation should not seem deplorable enough to disregard a child’s welfare.

Let me suggest the more radical solution: the baby bank in Hamburg, Germany. There, mothers can drop their unwanted infant down a 12-inch by 28-inch hatch that bears an uncanny resemblance to the Panda Bear diaper-changing stations in women’s bathrooms. The child falls down a chute to a heated bed, where it then receives two months of medical attention before entering the foster care and adoption system. The program’s designers liken the hatchways to suicide-counseling centers.

Although the idea may sound extreme and even cruelly convenient, I can’t develop a steady opinion on the matter. German women may be facing struggles completely different than our own.

Our country’s problems are clear. We need to teach proper pre- and post-natal care to mothers, especially young ones. We need to offer unbiased counseling and family planning, especially in the inner cities. We need to provide adequate and inexpensive childcare, especially for mothers who think they cannot “afford” their born or unborn child. We need to vote for state legislation that protects mothers who safely abandon their children, especially for those who are ready to take more drastic measures in their panicked states.

Should George W. Bush — God forbid — take the presidential seat, abortion laws are bound to become more stringent, and programs such as these are bound to dissipate. But ignoring the issue will do nothing to help the children. They’ll continue to turn up in dumpsters, wash up on the beach and suffocate in plastic bags. It’s disturbing, I know, but it’s an issue we don’t hear nearly enough about.

In 1998, 105 babies, 33 of whom died, were abandoned in public places; those are only the numbers of the discovered. The same year 31,000 were left in hospitals, many born to HIV-infected or drug-addicted mothers. This year’s numbers are expected to rise.

Debi Faris has room for three more undersized coffins in her Garden of Angels. What about the rest?