An Okno Zycia (window of life): photo - PAP/ Lech Muszynski (achive)
“It would not be easy to lose our cultural rights of conscience and sensitivity,” Primate of Poland, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk has said after the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child called for the EU in late November to close down so called “windows of life” (okien zycia), where mothers can anonymously drop off newly-born babies for care.
Since 2000, nearly 50 'windows of life', backed by the Roman Catholic Caritas Polska charity, have opened up in major cities and towns across Poland.
The Polish Roman Catholic church believes such places – usually a hatch in the wall of a convent containing a padded cot– help encourage women to not terminate unwanted pregnancies.
The UN, however, says that the baby hatches – where an alarm goes off notifying the nuns in the convent that a new baby has been placed in one of the 'windows of life' – contravenes the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which says children must be able to identify their parents if separated from them and the state has a "duty to respect the child's right to maintain personal relations with his or her parent".
But Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk says the baby boxes are part of the tradition of the Roman Catholic church, dating back to medieval times.
“We will not agree to the imposition of a vision, of what, exactly?” Archbishop Kowalczyk told TVN television said of the UN's call on the European Parliament to vote to ban the baby boxes, which have sprung up in Poland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Latvia after disappearing in Europe's cities for almost a century.
“In whose name would be have to close [baby boxes],” the archbishop said.
Director of the charity Caritas Polska, Father Marian Subocz told Polish Radio that the 'windows of life' have saved the lives of up to 40 children since they were re-introduced to Poland.
Father Marian Subocz said children left in the baby boxes are fully attended to and are immediately placed with ordinary families in which they are raised.
“That is why, in my opinion, we can not agree to close the 'windows of life' [since] since the right to life is the most important of human rights,” Father Subocz said.
Researcher say there has been an increase in the amount of babies being abandoned throughout Europe as the finance crisis increases poverty levels.
According to SOS Villages, a European charity that helps impoverished families, 1,200 children in Greece and 750 in Italy were abandoned, almost double the 400 children abandoned in Italy the year before. (pg)