By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Recently, a baby was abandoned by its mother within hours of its birth. The newborn was semi hidden in bushes only to be found later. The infant is safe, healthy, and presumably in the hands of someone who will love the child as it matures into adulthood.
New York is a safe haven State. We put in place laws that allow mothers to leave their children at safe places so as to assure the safety of the newborn and protect the mother from prosecution.
Right now there is a fact dispute between the law’s authors and in place District Attorneys. For instance, here in Onondaga County, our police and prosecutors are spending tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours to locate the mother of the newborn. It was my understanding that the mother was going to be left alone and the law was enacted to assure a safe placement for babies. By relentless pursuit of the mother’s identification, our prosecutors and police are creating a situation where the next mother wont be so gracious in how she dumps her baby. Soon we will hear of babies in garbage cans again. All this because prosecutors and police cannot be satisfied that the newborn they have is happy and healthy. For what reason do they still pursue the mother with such a vengeance?
We have become a nation that is focused so heavily on vengence that we have lost our soul. From the larger situation in Iraq to the venom with which we chased a former President, ours is a society that is losing its moral compass.
What happened in with this child is tragic. It is unimaginable the pain and horror a mother must go through before deciding to just abandon her baby and walk away. The outcome we witnessed is the outcome we want; safe children deposited at safe locations, and the mother is allowed her freedom instead of 18 years of slavery to a child she resents. We should all rejoice in a positive and good outcome.
But, the police and prosecutors are not satisfied. They want to bring about more pain and suffering. By chasing down mother with all their zeal and resources, it is clear there is an intended prosecution regardless of the law, its intent, or the behaviors of the mother.
What the police and prosecutors do not understand is that if they succeed in their mission of vengence, there will be more lives ruined. A prosecution will reunite this family nor will it undo the past. It will only serve to bring yet more hurt families, more ruined lives, and more pain to the communities.
Clearly, the community feels it suffered enough. No good can come from a prosecution.
Mister Fitzpatrick, listen to the community. Let us heal. Let that mother and her family try and get past this. I have no doubt that any lessons to be learned by the community have already sunk in. There is nothing more a prosecution and punishment can add.
It can only hurt. My fear is the high levels of disappointment that will come about within police circles if they do not locate and prosecute the mother.
Surprisingly, police and prosecutors just cannot be happy with the outcome. This, despite the fact that the dumping of the baby resulted in a positive outcome for the child. Hopefully in a small way, the mother too benefitted and will still evolve into a productive member of society.
It seems to me that both sides of this argument are disappointed for the same reason. One side will never understand and seeks only to satiate its blood lust for the punishment of the mother. I can understand how these folks feel and in a sense, sympathize.
On the other side are those who understand how, for reasons known only to her, this mother made a very stupid but proper decision with a good outcome. These people feel that forgiveness and the scar to be carried are sufficient punishment.
Both sides are right and both sides have lost
They have lost their arguments because we as a People have changed in our hearts. We have become a punitive People. “Blame” and sanction are our watchwords. When something goes wrong, when someone does wrong, when things are not as we feel they should be, then someone has to answer and their punishment should be without mercy.
People are angry. With the upswing in Christianity being the new moral template for our standards of behavior, dogma such as pentinence, punishment, and the rest of the ten commandments are the barometers. The dilemma posed by the abandoned baby case reflects the tension between the Old and New Testaments. Whereas in the “Old”, the theory was “an eye for an eye”, in the “New”, people are directed to “turn the other cheek”.
Safeguarding human life has to be our primary concern. If we do not, then whom among us is safe? It should always be clear that the reckless or intentional taking of a human life will not be tolerated. “Accidents” do happen and we cannot punish what we cannot control. For behavior to be conformed, people first need to know what is not acceptable. Then they have to be able to conform their behavior or pay the penalty.
Christian morality isolates this nation from the majority of the Western world on the subject of alcohol and children. Here, people under age 21 can fight in the military, carry and use guns, get licenses to drive, qualify to perform surgery or try cases, they can vote, and even serve life sentences in prison if deemed worthy.
The question is how then should we deal with people who break the law in our society? Do we focus on punishment to the maximum for every wrong? Should we treat all citizens with the same mathematical precision of the federal system? Or do we inject a sense of compassion and what is in the best interests of society into the calculus?
By all accounts, the baby was well cared for in utero and is fully healthy and without problems. No doubt, with love and honor and respect, this child will have a bright future and should be a contributing citizen in many respects. Society could end up with a lifetime welfare recipient, a career criminal, or the next Einstein.
But this is not about the baby. It is about the zeal expended to capture the mother. With her, start with the question whether someone is a continuing threat to the safety of the public or its property. There are so many alternatives that would yield great public benefit and teach a lesson. Imprisoning or otherwise punishing the mother, we get nothing productive instead just pay for her room and board.
But we do need to send a message and give people serious incentive not to commit such acts in the future. The helpless need protection. Hiding a child in the bushes is not such a great idea when hospitals, fire and police stations, and other public facilities have been set up to accept unwanted children. I am not convinced that incarceration is the answer when nearly everybody hurts for the infant or its child/mother and their families. Unfortunately, humans being what they are … all the prison sentences in the world are not going to stop the phenomena. Don’t we have laws against murder --- with punishment including the death penalty? Murders still occur so sentencing person A to send a message to person B has its limitations.
The crime here is one of panic and ignorance of public resources. If captured and prosecuted, a sentence should be a humbling experience for the mother of the child. From that outcome, we all would be more benefited.
But do not fault a woman in a miserable untenable situation. Reach out and offer a helping hand. We should be thankful this child was not raised by its mother. We could wish for a better drop point too. But, tossing the mother in a cage does no good and will not make the next case easier.
I realize the solution does not satisfy the lust for blood. Too bad, say I.