My tweet about the baby found in a porta potty at Main and Hastings resulted in a lot of media attention, everyone wanting to focus on the role COVID-19 played in this tragedy. I feel compelled to say more, because women abandon babies at an alarming rate, relatively speaking, and typically not during a pandemic and rarely in the Downtown Eastside.
Gender inequality and poverty play huge roles in why women abandon babies and the bigger picture is about reproductive rights, sex education & economic empowerment. More needs to be done to prevent an unwanted birth from happening in the first place and safe and accessible abortions, and affordable/free contraception options available to all women is critical. Tackling violence against women and poverty that creates conditions of infant abandonment is also critical. If we want to prevent child abandonment we must give women support at all points.
In Canada, where we have a shameful history of snatching children from their mothers, especially First Nations, Metis and Inuit mothers, we must provide women with the opportunity and support they need to raise the children they love, in the best way they know how and with respect for traditional ways of mothering. We must provide women who use with the support they need and creative options for raising their children. Child abandonment is the act of a mother without options. Giving her as many options as possible and empowering her to make informed choices about her own life, is the best way to make sure it stops. COVID-19 was not the reason this infant was abandoned and if we don’t examine the bigger picture, invest resources, address systemic oppression and make drastic policy changes, these tragedies will continue.