‘Baby boxes’ shouldn’t be legalized in Russia, says Health Ministry

‘Baby boxes’ shouldn’t be legalized in Russia, says Health Ministry
The Russian Health Ministry will not back the idea of so-called ‘baby boxes,’ special containers installed at hospitals where parents can abandon children anonymously and in relatively safe conditions, a representative has said.

We have decided not to support this initiative and the Education Ministry, the Labor Ministry and the Ministry of Justice have joined us in this decision,” the director of the Health Ministry’s Department for Children’s health and Childbirth, Elena Baibarina, said at a lower house roundtable session.

Russia’s human rights ombudsman, Tatyana Moskalkova, said on Tuesday however that she was strongly against the ban on baby boxes.

I think that anything that can potentially save lives or minimize harm connected with the fact that some families or mothers sometimes abandon their children has the right to exist,” she said.

Baby boxes are a chance to keep babies alive, keep them in good health and maintain a chance of their future adoption,” Moskalkova said.

In March this year, a group of Russian MPs drafted a bill giving regional authorities the power to decide whether baby boxes should be legal. However, the bill also states that the Health Ministry should develop unified requirements for the facilities and the rules of their use. The bill has not yet been considered by the State Duma, but received approval from the Committee on Federation and Local Governance. 

Baby boxes appeared in several Russian regions in about 2011. The activists who launched the initiative claimed they were saving infants from health dangers that appear when parents simply leave them in public places or near hospitals and orphanages.

A legislative ban on baby boxes was proposed in August 2015 by lawmakers from the nationalist party LDPR. This draft ordered fines and correctional labor both for those who set up the facilities and for the parents who use them. The sponsors of the bill also explained that, in their view, baby boxes encouraged parents to give up their children by offering a simple and safe way to do so. Senator Elena Mizulina presented a similar motion in mid-2016.

On the other hand, Senator Konstantin Dobrynin from Arkhangelsk Region drafted a bill that would legalize baby boxes and detail state requirements for such facilities and the personnel who run them. He pointed out that wider use of baby boxes could prevent cases in which mothers either kill their unwanted newborns or leave them in the street, potentially leading to their deaths.

Currently baby boxes are banned in nine Russian regions. Two regions have officially recognized the initiative as legal, while in one region they remain in a gray area of the law. Mass media estimate the overall number of baby boxes across the country at about 60.