INFANTICIDE: San Bernardino Program Offers Emergency Services
Pregnant women in San Bernardino will soon be offered "counseling and emergency services" to dissuade them from killing or abandoning their newborns. The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports that the St. Bernardine Medical Center modeled its new program on a similar "Baby Anthony" program at St. Francis Medical Center in Los Angeles. At St. Francis, a pregnant woman "considering dumping" her baby can call a hotline "answered by trained labor and delivery nurses who can dispatch an ambulance to the woman's home, pick her up and deliver the child in the hospital at no cost with no questions asked." In return, the woman releases her legal rights to the child, who is put up for adoption. The program was initiated after hospital administrators noticed that rising numbers of young women are concealing their pregnancies, a practice which often indicates an increased risk of infanticide. Crystal Wright, project specialist at St. Bernardine, said, "If they hide their pregnancy, what will happen when they have the baby? We don't want discarded kids." The model program at St. Francis targets teenagers early in their pregnancies, and particularly those without family support or health insurance. "The one thing [these women] have in common is the perception of being alone," noted Carole Lee Thorpe, St. Francis assistant administrator for community services. Thorpe said that "the goal is to provide counseling or referrals to women before they get to the delivery stage." Since 1997, the St. Francis hotline has received 60 calls, and St. Bernardine hopes for similar success with its program.
Gettin' The Word Out
The Press-Enterprise reports that both medical centers, operated by Catholic Healthcare West, emphasize the importance of youth input in their programs. Wright "hopes to form a youth advisory board to talk to teen-age parents and educate hospital staff about what pregnant young people go through," although the details of the St. Bernardine program have not yet been worked out. Debi Faris, founder of the Garden of Angels, a memorial cemetery for abandoned babies, encouraged a "heavy media blitz" to promote the programs and the 1-800-606-BABY hotline. "You need billboards, public service announcements, bumper stickers," Faris said, noting that "the more people who know about it, the better" (Kelly, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/8).