Photo/IllutrationJikei Hospital in Kumamoto (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KUMAMOTO--A hospital known for its drop box system to save unwanted babies here is now accepting pregnant women and allowing them to give birth with full confidentiality, revealing their identities only to a hospital representative.

The new program is an attempt by Jikei Hospital to ensure children’s right to know who their biological mother is if they desire later.

The program, called confidential birth system, began in Germany in 2014. In principle, a child under the system who turns 16 is eligible to access the information about his or her birth mother. Costs for prenatal care and delivery are covered by the government.

The hospital decided to introduce the new program as many newborns continue to be abandoned or killed by mothers who had unwanted pregnancies.

Takeshi Hasuda, the hospital’s deputy director, said at a news conference on Dec. 7 that Jikei’s initiative is aimed at preventing women from secretly giving birth at home or in a car, which poses enormous risks to the mother and the newborn.

“Our hospital decided to proceed with the confidential birth system as we believe no big progress will be made in efforts toward enacting a law allowing the system unless there is an established record of confidential birth cases,” Hasuda said.

The hospital announced in late 2017 that it was considering introducing the confidential birth program.

It has since solicited cooperation from central and local governments over the endeavor, but there was little progress made due to problems, such as what to do with the family register and adoption procedures.

According to Hasuda, the hospital will first schedule a counseling meeting with a pregnant woman who wishes to give birth anonymously at the hospital under the confidential birth program.

Hospital officials will then persuade the woman to disclose her identity. If she does not budge, the two sides will decide on how many years later that officials can be told the information.

However, the woman must reveal her name to the head of the newborn child-care consultation service within the hospital and can undergo a prenatal checkup and give birth under an alias.

The hospital will finance the cost of her childbirth and keep a copy of her identification. The child will be adopted.

When the child reaches a certain age and seeks to learn more about his or her biological mother, the copy will be disclosed.

But if the woman insists on anonymity for life, the child will be permanently denied access to the information.

Jikei Hospital introduced the drop box, called Konotori no Yurikago (cradle of storks), in May 2007, which has saved 144 infants through March 2019. However, the drop box system drew criticism in that it took away children's right to learn the identity of their biological mother.