|The Mississippi River baby, named Angel by local authorities, was wrapped in this T-shirt.|
The body of a newborn baby girl was recovered Monday from the Mississippi River near Winona, the fourth time since 1999 that an infant has been found dead in a stretch of the river south of the metro area.A horrific tragedy. (Recent developments here.) As the story notes, Minnesota (and other states) has a law in place to help prevent newborn abandonment. From the Minnesota Department of Health:
The Winona County sheriff's office said an infant weighing about 7 pounds was found floating downstream in a plastic bag about 2:20 p.m. and was taken to the Dakota County medical examiner's office in Hastings for an autopsy.
Each of the babies was found four years apart. The other three were all discovered along the river's banks in Goodhue County, about 60 miles to the north. Their deaths remain unsolved.
A boater discovered the first infant in 1999 near a Red Wing marina. The little girl was wrapped in a towel, and her umbilical cord was still attached.
A newborn boy turned up in 2003, floating along the edge of Lake Pepin's Methodist Beach in Frontenac.
In 2007, dock workers at Treasure Island Resort and Casino found a baby girl floating in the casino's marina. ...
Under the state's Safe Place for Newborns law, enacted in April 2003 [actually 2000], a mother or immediate family member of a newborn can place the unharmed child into the hands of a hospital employee on hospital grounds with complete anonymity during the first three days of the child's life.
Safe Place for Newborns Law—Minnesota Statutes 145.902—The law allows a mother to leave her newborn baby, within seventy-two hours of birth, at any hospital in the state. The newborn must be unharmed and left with a hospital employee on the hospital premises. The hospital cannot inquire as to the identity of the mother and cannot notify the local social services agency of the newborn until the mother has left the hospital. This law was passed for mothers of newborns who are in crisis and at risk for abandoning their baby. Additional information can be obtained at www.safeplacefornewborns.org or call 1-877-440-BABY (2229), a 24-hour toll-free crisis hotline.It is important that pregnant women who feel that they are in desperate circumstances know that this option exists. The abandonment or killing of newborn babies should never, ever happen. Learn what you can do to spread the word here, and learn more details about the law here.
Stories like this also provide an opportunity for pro-life advocates to make the case against abortion. Everyone (well, almost everyone) knows that dumping a newborn baby in the river is wrong. But there is no morally relevant difference between a newborn baby and her younger, unborn self; both are living members of our species, and human beings deserve respect and protection irrespective of age or stage of development. Moreover, infanticide cases effectively put the lie to sophisticated bodily autonomy arguments for abortion (see my discussion here)—our obligations to these little human beings are so obvious!
Infanticide is tragic. But it can help clarify for us the tragedy of abortion, which is ongoing and happening on a much, much larger scale.