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Hamburg offers babies life before abandonment
HAMBURG, Germany (CNN) -- A pilot program aimed at preventing deaths among abandoned babies is about to begin here amid controversy.
Social workers in Hamburg will be opening a "baby bank" at a center near the city's famous Reeperbahn red light district.
A mother can anonymously pass her child through a "letter box" and into a crib. Sensors in the cot will alert staff to the new arrival.
It is estimated that as many as 30 babies are abandoned each year in Germany and up to half are not found in time.
One Hamburg baby was recently found dumped in a waste container and it is cases like this, says Heidi Rosenfeld, the project leader, they want to prevent.
"Every baby whose life we save justifies our work. Before any baby ends up in the rubbish it is much better that it is dropped off with us.
Child can be left for eight weeks
"The mother doesn't commit a crime," Rosenfeld added. "She can leave her child for eight weeks in our care. She knows it will be found and she will feel better for it."
But critics charge the project is inhumane. They say it makes it too easy for a mother to dodge her responsibilities.
"I am against the project, I think it is immoral," said Vivien Spaethmann, a member of the Hamburg state parliament.
"It's an invitation for distressed mothers to leave their child there. And it doesn't help the mothers who are really in need.
"If they've not heard of other places they can go for help, how will they hear about this one?"
Government backing for project
Part of the money for the project will come from local authorities, the rest from private donations. The concept has the backing of the German government.
This is not the first time a project of this type has been started in Hamburg. In 1704 a Dutch philanthropist offered a similar service but the office was closed after a year because people started bringin in older children.
In the United States, lawmakers in California, Pennsylvania and Florida may follow their Texas counterparts and allow mothers to hand over their newborn babies rather than abandon them in such places as dumpsters.
After 11 abandoned babies were found alive in Houston, Texas, during a nine-month period, state legislators passed a law to allow mothers who didn't want their babies to drop them off at emergency medical facilities, no questions asked.
More states may let moms abandon newborns -- safely
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