Less than three miles from the community of my youth, a maintenance worker from the Walt Whitman Projects in Brooklyn, New York heard the sound of a baby crying from a trash compactor and ultimately saved its life. When I was growing up, the trash compactor was referred to as the Incinerator Room because trash thrown down the chute would eventually be burned. Thank God those days are over because Laquasia Wright’s newborn would have died in a blazing inferno.
Neighbors said 18 year old Wright had recently looked worried, as if she bore the weight of the world on her shoulders. A relative described her as looking “lost.” Because she was “heavy-set” as described by neighbors, she was able to conceal her pregnancy until the time of her baby’s birth. They also described her as being sweet. Unfortunately this sweet, heavy-set 18 year old woman who lived with her family in the Whitman Houses is now charged with murder. Every obstetrician, physician, midwife and nurse who doesn’t discuss the state law called the Abandoned Infant Protection Act shares the blame.
As healthcare providers we have failed miserably to inform patients that they can leave a newborn in a hospital, police precinct, firehouse or other safe locations for up to thirty days without fear of penalty or prosecution. As long as the baby has not been harmed, this can be done anonymously. Clearly, this issue needs to be addressed by the American College of Obstetrician-Gynecologists but securing a place on a committee that should address these issues is synonymous with seeking congressional office.
Sure, it would be easy to point fingers at Wright with condemnation but there’s a bigger issue. Information regarding the Abandoned Infant Protection Act should be discussed in high schools, middle schools, plastered on the walls of every public ladies room and discussed from the pulpit. Radio stations and MTV should be sponsoring public service announcements to address this issue. Are there any celebrities in the house? Where are the ACOG leaders? The Office of Women’s Health? How long are we going to have read about babies being dumped in trash cans?
Wright’s baby lived because it landed on a large pile of trash. The next baby might not be so lucky.