Infanticide Essay

4896 words - 20 pages

Killing your baby. What could be more depraved? Every year hundreds of women and men commit infanticide-they kill their newborns or let them die. Most infanticides remain undiscovered but every now and then a janitor follows a trail of blood to a tiny body in a trash bin. (Pinker, New York Times) Infanticide, the deliberate killing of infants, was once an economic necessity and exists even today. Many incidents of infanticide indicate that the killer most often mothers or mother figures, but not to exclude fathers, or their influence, were below the level of parental caring. Throughout the ages, oppression has kept women from realizing their full generative potential thus becoming ready infant killers. (Piers, 13) Recognizing the symptoms of this social disease is not enough of a solution. We must be able to decipher which behavioral backgrounds and behaviors will lead certain members of our society to such an atrocity.In the early 1800's Foundling Hospitals were established to provide care for illegitimate or unwanted infants. There was much debate whether the Foundling Hospitals would help to reduce the rate of infanticide. Studies show there was a high rate of infanticide within the hospitals themselves. (King, Once A Week, Sept. 1865) Most of these institutions prove to be more cruel than direct infanticide. Due to insufficient hospital staff and the inefficiency of adoption procedures, human babies died in misery from sheer neglect. (Piers, 14,82) There are no available statistics that demonstrate an increase in the incidence of infanticide during the mid-Victorian years. Yet there is no doubt that there was a dramatic increase in public and professional concern about the issue during this time. Newspapers, quarterlies, professional journals and parliamentary papers alike described infanticide as an "growing epidemic" and a "national disgrace". Dramatic cases often preoccupied the media for weeks or even months at a time. Although there was apparent consensus that infanticide was serious and on the rise, Victorians disagreed sharply about both the causes and the potential solutions to the problem. The typical case involved a poor, ignorant, unmarried girl, often domestic servant, who concealed her pregnancy and then killed her infant at birth in order to hide her "shame" and preserve her livelihood. However, as a number of social critics suggested, infanticide was often triggered, not by guilt about illegitimacy, but by financial desperation. Punitive legislation aimed at the poor -particularly the Poor Law of 1834-was blamed for placing a burden on mothers.The New Poor Law passed Parliament in 1834 proclaiming it's wisdom, foresight, justice, and morality, by adopting the following recommendation of it's Commissioners - " As a further step toward the natural state of things, we recommend that the mother of an illegitimate child, born after the passing of the Act, be required to support it, and that any relief occasioned by the wants of the...

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