A sad effort is gaining ground in Korean among some intercountry adoption supporters: a return to anonymous abandonment via "baby boxes."

Proponents claim that the boxes (essentially drop boxes that are or would be, should more be approved, installed in hospitals that would allow a woman to anonymously leave her child in care) will eliminate the infanticide that would surely result otherwise. They further claim the boxes will lead to the happy endings of children joining new families through adoption and mothers moving on to new lives unencumbered by their shame.

No. Not true.

There is no evidence to prove that baby box availability stops infanticide. It takes far more than fear and shame to predispose a woman to murdering her child. Suggesting that this is the only alternative a Korean woman will take to abandoning her child anonymously is a real affront to all Korean women.

Loss of identity is not minor collateral damage, as baby box proponents suggest. Adoptees, who are the top experts on adoption, tell us very clearly that birth identity is critical to well-being. Adoptees are fighting for access to birth identity wherever it is denied them, including Korea, where baby boxes would take the fight back centuries. We should be fighting with, not against, them.

If adoptee expertise isn't enough to convince you, how about the UN's? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says this - and you can't make it much clearer:
Article 8
1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.
 2. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity.
As for the suggestion that baby boxes will help women, we know from the experiences of mothers in countries that have progressed beyond Korea's archaic attitudes that no mother "moves on" to a new life and forgets her child. Suggesting that this torture is kind or humane isn't charity, as proponents like to say. It's cowardice.

It's cowardice because it avoids the real reason Korean women are pushed into this decision: Korean society treats unmarried mothers and their children with disrespect, dismissal and discrimination. This must end, and to do so we must promote practices that protect adoptee identity while supporting women's educated choices. Baby boxes do neither.

On Wednesday January 22, I encourage everyone who agrees that we need to build families and not boxes to join the social media campaign sponsored by KoRoot, the wonderful organization that has been supporting Korean adoptees in Korea for decades, and make your opinion heard.

Let's put this terrible step backward behind us and work to help women, their children and Korean adoptees.



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