“Drain Baby” and His Unfortunate Friends

Yesterday, an Australian woman was arrested for dumping her infant down a Sydney drain. The baby was 7 days old (he is 8 days today, 5 of which, he spent in the storm drain) and has become known as “drain baby”. Now, the mother is being charged with attempted murder. Hah! Only if she had attempted it a couple of months earlier!

The drain where the baby was dumped (photo: James Alcock)
The drain where the baby was dumped (photo: James Alcock)

I find thoroughly bewildering the unchallenged and widely-accepted norm that this mother could’ve killed her child some months earlier and gone Scot-free. With our language, we have created a gulf of difference between the unborn and the born child. We’ve virtually equated the embryo to a piece of steak. But are they really so different in the days before and after birth? What really changes at the instant of Birth? I perceive it to be two things:

  1. Physical Displacement: the tiny being passes through a canal to emerge at a different place. It is the exact same being, only in different space (i.e. not the womb).
  2. Change in Sustenance Sourcing: it no longer has to rely on the umbilical cord for nutrition. The infant is still consuming the same nutrients (food and Oxygen), but just sourcing it from a different place. So, it is more helpless before birth.

There are no other physical changes. So which event signifies Life – (a) or (b)? Or is it both? When do our mighty courts, activists and jesters decide to grant the ‘Status of Life’ to that tiny organism? Because – clearly, we have completely cleaved out ‘Life’ from the ‘Status of Life’ – taking it upon us to decree the hour when a being comes to life.

In many states, it's perfectly legal to 'terminate' any of these fetuses up to week 36. But who's to say when Life began?
In many states, it’s perfectly legal to ‘terminate’ any of these fetuses up to week 36. But who’s to say when Life began?

Let’s face it: we don’t know when Life begins. Childbirth, being an event we can see, seems obvious. So, to what we had dubbed a ‘fetus’ – we now give a new name, an ‘infant’. Let’s not forget that these are mental constructs that we have invented to help us grasp the rite of passage (e.g. when does a boy become a man and a girl, a woman? Do we not define these in terms of rites of passage?). We define these stages according to how we perceive the transformation from the outside. If by some miracle, the infant could retreat into its mother’s womb – would it again be okay to kill it off?

If-it-isnt-a-babyOur moral and legal position on abortion (which should’ve been termed ‘killing’ or at least ‘putting down’) are almost exclusively about ‘Us’ …the ones who safely made it out of the womb and are now living full, healthy lives and pontificating about choices. Is it really that surprising that we can make up rules and norms to decide the fates of unborn children – when we are constantly doing it to those who have already been born? What would we say if it were us or our children that faced termination?

It’s hard not to wonder what the properties of Life are. Is it the capacity to perceive the world around us? Basic self-preservation instincts? Is it responding to external stimuli? Protesting hunger and deprivation? The instinct of preserving the status quo? – Because a fetus often fulfills each one of these prerequisites. Yet, we decide that since it is in a specific place (the womb) – though not of its own choosing – it cannot be said to have Life. Even the kindest of us – who weep at the execution of seasoned rapists and serial killers – decree that it’s okay to kill a child. An unborn one at that!

One doesn’t have to be a Conservative or a Liberal to honestly reassess his/her position. “They say X is acceptable and I usually vote for them, so I must concur” is not a real, political position. It’s Groupthink: a mix of intellectual laziness, self-centrism and capitulation to peer pressure. It has almost become fashionable to support feticide in the name of being ‘pro-choice’. The word ‘choice’ is powerful, and evocative of basic freedoms. But it’s also misleading. You would support people having the choice to pierce their nipples, but not the option to fry – with microwaves – a baby kangaroo in its mother’s pouch. For God’s sake – these same pro-choice liberals also weep over veal!

Yes, we feel sorry for “Drain Baby” …but he has survived not only Birth, but also an attempt on his life. In 2008, 44 million babies didn’t get to be born. That’s the same as the population of Spain! Women must have the right to choose – but before, not after the fact. No one – not men, not women – can have the moral right to preemptively massacre 44 million lives. Besides, we mustn’t fail to consider what choice we’re leaving the unborn child.

  • P.S.1 while I was writing this post, another drain-baby has been found in Spain.
  • P.S.2 within the same timeframe, another 14000 babies have been aborted


  1. This is one of those debates that has plus points on both sides and the opposite too. I read your article and I want to agree with you, I really do.

    But then, I look at children walking the streets, with no home to go to, no food to eat and virtually no future to look forward to. I also look at women who did make the choice before the fact, but through rape or even a ruptured condom had that choice taken away from them.

    The killing of babies – within and outside the womb – is a symptom that goes beyond the actual act. It is my feeling that it is the problems that go before the murder of the babies that have to be addressed rather than the act itself.

    If women did not have to worry about being raped, then it would be their choice.
    If wives were not abused and cared for within their marriages and homes, then it would be their choice.
    If our daughters were safe within their own homes, then it would be their choice.

    But until that day comes, I think it is quite unfair to blame the woman who chose to abort an unborn child or the woman who chose to drop her baby in a drain. Both women are just giving back to the world what they got from the world.

    • Thank you Vinay for taking the time to read, and comment on, my post. I can see that you, too, have thought about it deeply. And why not? It is indeed a most disturbing phenomenon.

      Of course rape and abuses are exceptions to my argument. While its still not right to punish the fetus when parents are victims, you are right in pointing that out. However, research tells us that in the USA, for example, 92% of abortions are for convenience i.e. elective. In the UK, about 45% of women (25-35 years) went for repeat abortions. Ground E (abortion of deformed babies, esp. w/ Down’s Syndrome) are on the rise – because parents want to shop around for the perfect baby. I think legalizing it has made into a medical option as opposed to an emergency.

      I disagree with your interpretation from seeing homeless, hungry children on the streets. We are not in charge of deciding whether they come in to the world or not i.e. abortion can never be used as a retrospective population control device.

      I absolutely agree with you that root problems must be addressed first. I hope for girls’ / women’s safety within and outside our homes. And I feel our conformist, licensing attitude towards elective abortion must also be reassessed.

      Thanks again for reading. Please come back.

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