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Killing your baby. What could be more depraved? Every year hundreds of women and men commit infanticide-they kill their newborns or let them die. Most infanticides remain undiscovered but every now and then a janitor follows a trail of blood to a tiny body in a trash bin. (Pinker, New York Times) Infanticide, the deliberate killing of infants, was once an economic necessity and exists even today. Many incidents of infanticide indicate that the killer most often mothers or mother figures, but not to exclude fathers, or their influence, were below the level of parental caring. Throughout the ages, oppression has kept women from realizing their full generative potential thus becoming ready infant killers. (Piers, 13) Recognizing the symptoms of this social disease is not enough of a solution. We must be able to decipher which behavioral backgrounds and behaviors will lead certain members of our society to such an atrocity.

In the early 1800's Foundling Hospitals were established to provide care for illegitimate or unwanted infants. There was much debate whether the Foundling Hospitals would help to reduce the rate of infanticide. Studies show there was a high rate of infanticide within the hospitals themselves. (King, Once A Week, Sept. 1865) Most of these institutions prove to be more cruel than direct infanticide. Due to insufficient hospital staff and the inefficiency of adoption procedures, human babies died in misery from sheer neglect. (Piers, 14,82)

There are no available statistics that demonstrate an increase in the incidence of infanticide during the mid-Victorian years. Yet there is no doubt that there was a dramatic increase in public and professional concern about the issue during this time. Newspapers, quarterlies, professional journals and parliamentary papers alike described infanticide as an "growing epidemic" and a "national disgrace". Dramatic cases often preoccupied the media for weeks or even months at a time. Although there was apparent consensus that infanticide was serious and on the rise, Victorians disagreed sharply about both the causes and the potential solutions to the problem. The typical case involved a poor, ignorant, unmarried girl, often domestic servant, who concealed her pregnancy and then killed her infant at birth in order to hide her "shame" and preserve her livelihood. However, as a number of social critics suggested, infanticide was often triggered, not by guilt about illegitimacy, but by financial desperation. Punitive legislation aimed at the poor -particularly the Poor Law of 1834-was blamed for placing a burden on mothers.

The New Poor Law passed Parliament in 1834 proclaiming it's wisdom, foresight, justice, and morality, by adopting the following recommendation of it's Commissioners - " As a further step toward the natural state of things, we recommend that the mother of an illegitimate child, born after the passing of the Act, be required to support it, and that any relief occasioned by the wants of the child be considered relief afforded to the parent." By this clause the father was relieved of all responsibility of caring or providing for his child. Although unwed mothers were clearly in the most vulnerable position, married and widowed mothers often suffered as well - a fact noted by Charles Dickens in The Chimes. (King, , Once a Week, Sept. 1865)

The furor of infanticide was due in part to the fact that crime went unpunished. Juries were extremely reluctant to bring in murder convictions against women accused of infanticide. Whatever their reasons, juries often chose to overlook evidence either by convicting the defendant on the charge of "concealment of death" or acquittal. In many cases the safer course was to murder a child. If you were to beat or starve a child you may get a long imprisonment. Infanticide was a better investment than ill-treatment as many cases show that if you kill an infant outright you are sure to be acquitted and for ill- treatment you would possibly be sentenced to a year or two of hard labor. (The Saturday Review, Aug 9, 1865)

In the late 1800's there are reports that newborn corpses have been found in sewer systems. This way of disposing of killed babies leads us to guess that they were born to young, ignorant mothers. The babies could have been placed on a doorstep or through regular welfare channels, and the babies would have survived. Since the mothers did not make these choices, we can surmise that they were unfeeling toward the children they had borne. It was these types of strange behaviors that in earlier centuries led to massive infanticides. Circumstances that lead parents to kill an infant become clearer as one observes urban poverty. The seventh or eighth child in a poor family was the one that was doomed to die. The means of killing were starvation and neglect. (Piers, 16)

Infanticide by neglect, is committed by hospital authorities in large cities in the United States. Mothers who abandon their babies on hospital steps assume their babies will survive but that is not always the case. The shortage of funds for child welfare, the poverty of many communities, understaffed hospitals- these conditions exist the world over, in times of war and peace. It has been sadly documented, incidental infanticide by neglect is inevitable. (Piers, 17)

Killing a baby is an immoral act, and we often express our outrage by calling it a sickness. Normal human motives are not always moral and infanticide does not have to be a product of dysfunctional upbringing. We can try to understand what would lead a mother to kill her newborn. Remembering that, to understand is not necessarily to forgive. (Pinker, New York Times)

Among Yemenites a premarital pregnancy is viewed as a horrible, shameful tragedy for the entire family. As soon as the baby was born, the mother was handed a knife and was ordered to kill the child. (Piers, 17) To date, detailed analysis of the causes of infanticide have been based largely on data from collections of case reports. This data may not accurately reflect the full range of causes. From what is known, the causes of death seem to vary accordingly to the age of the infant and the parents' psychological state, age, economic status, race, culture and beliefs . Infants killed immediately after birth are often the product of unwanted and disguised pregnancies. Nearly three-quarters of the infants who died on the first day life had not been born in a hospital. (Wissow, 1239) Children die because adults neglect, abuse, or kill them at birth. Outrage cannot prevent the killing or near killing of children. The understanding of infanticide, whether by neglect or abuse is still with us. (Piers, 14)

Infanticide was an uncommon word in the late 20th century but an examination of birth and death certificates from the 1980's and 1990's shows it occurred almost once a day in America. Most of the death certificates did not disclose the identity of the murderer. The study of infants to a year old shows that five percent of the babies were killed before they were a day old, and half died before they had reached four months of age. (Editorial, Post Intellingencer, Nov 2, 1998)

How could they do it? Nothing melts the heart like a helpless baby. Even a biologist's cold calculations tell us that an offspring that carries our genes is the whole point of our existence. (Pinker, New York Times, Nov. 2, 1997) Infanticide, many think could be only a product of pathology. The psychiatrists uncover childhood trauma. The defense lawyers argue temporary psychosis. Others blame a throwaway society, permissive sex education, or lack of, rock lyrics, abortionists and absent role models. It is difficult to maintain that infanticide is an illness when we learn that is has been practiced and accepted in most cultures throughout history. Infanticidal parents do not commonly show signs of psychopathology. A 1970 study of statistics of child killing, a psychiatrist, Phillip Resnick, found that mothers who kill their older children are often psychotic, depressed or suicidal, but mothers who kill their newborns are usually not. It was this difference that led Resnick to argue that the category infanticide be split into neonauticide, the killing of a baby on the day of it's birth, and filicide, the killing of a child older than one day. (Wissow, 1241)

What is the mental state of a teen-age mother who has kept her pregnancy a secret? She is immature enough to have hoped that their pregnancy would go away by itself, her maternal feelings have been set at zero and she suddenly realizes she is in big trouble. Being young and single are two bad omens for successful motherhood, and the girl that conceals her pregnancy and procrastinates over the consequences will soon be disquieted by a third omen - she will give birth in circumstances that are particularly unpromising for a human mother: alone. (Pinker, New York Times)

Physician- induced infanticides have been around as long as the medical profession itself. There will always be a doctor willing to set aside his medical ethics by killing infants either for profit or a jaded set of ethics.. Some strangle babies with their bare hands. Some use the placenta (afterbirth) to smother children. Others kill the infant by neglect after the child is born, the infant is placed in a room by herself until the infant dies of starvation and lack of attention. Doctors willing to practice this type of "death-icine" are on the decline, but we are becoming more aware as our newspapers and evening news reveal. (Hovde, 14)

The facts and figures of infanticide differ from country to country based on their laws, religions, and education on infanticide. The rising numbers of infanticide in Hungary have forced the government to increase the penalty to mandatory imprisonment of 2-8 years. Hospitals are putting incubators outside their doors as an option for mothers not wanting their babies. (Glass, 570) Officially 25 to 30 babies are murdered in Hungary every year. The discovery of body parts of a 3 week old baby in the sewer system in Eastern Hungary indicates that estimates of 250-300 cases go undiscovered (Piers, 27) In Budapest a full "morning-after" contraceptive service using drugs donated by drug companies has opened as findings have shown that women between the ages of 14-18 years are most affected. Free contraceptives were discontinued in 1995. (Glass, 572) In Leeds, U.K medical reports show that 81 children who were judged by the courts to have been killed, usually from smothering, by a parent, almost always the mother. Forty- two of the children were initially certified as having died from sudden death syndrome (SIDS). Media reports insinuate that there may be many more instances where sudden infant death was due not to SIDS but to infanticide. There were 1515 deaths in children less than 1 year old in the U.K in 1989. (Meadow, 161)

There are more infants unnaturally sacrificed in China and the moral guilt of the Chinese parents is immensely less than similar offenders in Christian countries. Infanticide has been spoken as one of the great social plagues of the Chinese Empire. Poverty has a great deal to do with the prevalence of infanticide. They do not mind boys- but a girl is a useless mouth to fill. For certain reasons peculiar to China, there is a great desire to have male offspring. Infanticide remains an offense of which the law does not recognize. The numbers of infanticides in China exceeds the number of infanticides in Europe in proportion to the population. (Coleridge, The Month and Catholic Review)

Chinese law only punishes infanticide indirectly- that is, the penalties which are applied to it are penalties against the parents who chastise their children or grandchildren so severely as the take away their life. The penalties are sixty stripes and exile from the province for a year. (Coleridge, The Month and Catholic Review). An alteration was made at the end of the last century putting infanticide on a level with homicide but the law was too severe to be enforced. A man or woman must kill three children in order to be liable to the penalty of sixty stripes. (Hovde, Columbian, B13)

Several infant deaths in Quebec in 1997 were erroneously attributed to natural causes. A team of experts that looked into the deaths of more than 400 children under five years of age and found that many of the deaths may have been infanticide. At least two deaths near the provincial capital which were attributed to natural or undetermined causes were actually infanticide. In both cases medical authorities and the coroner classified the cause of death as crib death, a syndrome that only affects small infants. Further study revealed their parents have in fact suffocated the children. A study which was conducted in three Quebec City hospitals between 1985 and 1994 showed that cases of infanticide were twice as high as coroner reports indicated. (Internet, CFRA News Talk Radio)

Our compassion hinges on the child, not just on the mother. Killers of older children, no matter how desperate, evoke little mercy. Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who sent her two sons, 14 months and 3 years old, to watery deaths, is in jail, unmourned, serving a life sentence. The leniency shown to fanticidal mothers forces us to think the unthinkable and ask if we, like many societies and like the mothers themselves, are not completely sure whether a neonate is a full person. (Internet, "Child Deaths Blamed on Infanticide".)

Most observers sense the desperation that drives a parent to infanticide. Prosecutors sometimes don't prosecute; juries rarely convict; and those found guilty almost never go to jail. Barbara Kerwin, a forensic psychologist, reports that in nearly 300 cases of women charged with infanticide in the United States and Britain, no woman spent more than a night in jail. In Europe, the laws of several countries prescribed less severe penalties for infanticide than for adult homicides. (Pinker, New York Times)

Based on data Murray Levine, Ph.D. a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and his graduate students obtained though the PsycLIT, Medline and SUNY at Buffalo databases, along with previous research, news articles and court testimony, the report concluded that:

? Some 18,000 children annually are permanently disabled and another 142,000 are seriously injured from severe abuse.

? Enraged or extremely stressed fathers and other male caretakers are the perpetrators in most abuse fatalities, although most parenting and child abuse prevention programs target women. (Women are most often held responsible for child deaths from bathtub drowning, fires started by unsupervised children, dehydration and starvation.)

? Domestic violence is strongly connected to child abuse fatalities. Child abuse or neglect occurs in about half homes where adult violence also occurs.

Psychologists can play a key role in combating the problem because they are at the forefront of building preventive programs and treatment interventions for abuse victims and their families, Levine said. (Internet, "The Infanticide/Abortion Link.")

Is abortion a form of infanticide? Infanticide is even more horrifying than abortion because everyone recognizes the children who are being murdered as being alive. Most civilized people are shocked when they learn of a child who is murdered by a parent. Despite the cries of protest, infanticide continues to flourish. Infanticide flourishes because abortion flourishes. The attitudes required for abortion are the same as those for infanticide. If you accept abortion, it is not a large moral leap to begin accepting infanticide. ...

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