Indian woman under cultural, religious pressures leaves baby in toilet at Cannington Medical Centre
A pregnant and unmarried Indian woman under significant cultural and religious pressures “abandoned her humanity” and left her newborn baby head first in a toilet out of fear she’d be ostracised from her community and bring shame upon her family.
The baby boy was found crying inside the toilet bowl — with the placenta and umbilical cord still attached — after his mother abandoned him in the Cannington Medical Centre bathrooms on February 6, 2021.
Miraculously, the newborn did not suffer any medical issues, after being rescued by a registered nurse, however, he was given antibiotics for prophylaxis at Perth Children’s Hospital that afternoon.
He has since been put up for adoption.
But his 27-year-old mother, whose identity has been suppressed, faced Perth District Court last week charged with one count of causing suffering to a child in her care.
The court was told the woman, aged 26 at the time, had asked her housemates to drive her to the doctor earlier that day, saying she was suffering from pain from constipation.
She was about nine months pregnant at the time, but had denied the pregnancy when quizzed, instead saying she had stomach issues.
Just minutes after the doctor’s visit, during which she denied the pregnancy again, the woman told her housemates she needed to go to the bathroom.
CCTV footage from the medical centre showed the woman walking into the medical centre’s toilet facilities just before 5pm.
Just 26 minutes later, she was seen leaving.
Meanwhile, a woman who had entered the bathroom heard “gagging or heavy breathing”, which she quickly realised was a baby crying.
“He had been lying in the toilet with the umbilical cord and placenta still attached, in the toilet,” Judge Linda Petrusa said.
“The baby had been left head first in the toilet.”
When police knocked on the woman’s door that night they found a pile of clothing soaked in blood, but she continued to deny that she had been pregnant.
In an interview the following day, the woman admitted she’d given birth and told officers how she hadn’t looked into the toilet afterwards.
“She wasn’t worried about the baby and whether it was under water or able to breathe since she wasn’t thinking clearly at the time,” Prosecutor Kelsey Argue told the court.
The woman’s lawyer, Lucy Young, admitted one of the most aggravating features of her client’s offence, which carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison, was the “extreme vulnerability of the victim” — the newborn baby boy.
“It’s not possible to imagine a more vulnerable victim,” she said.
Judge Petrusa said the woman’s decision to put her own needs and fears over those of such a vulnerable and helpless child was “extraordinary”.
“It is difficult to fathom the degree of fear that would have led you to so steadfastly deny your pregnancy . . . (and) abandon your humanity,” she said.
“It is a testament to the level of your fear that you would prefer to endure the pain of labour and the subsequent blood loss without any help or medication, so that you can maintain the self-delusion that allows you to avoid the social stigma of being an unwed mother.”
Judge Petrusa also criticised the cultural and religious pressures that were acting upon the woman.
“It is appalling to think that in our modern world there still exists cultural and religious norms that judge women so harshly and instil such fear as being cast out that they can be driven to discard their newborn child,” she said.
“This (giving birth in a toilet) would no doubt have been a traumatic and difficult experience but even when faced with the reality of your child, you did nothing to help. To the contrary, you flushed the toilet and walked away . . . uncaring as to whether he lived or died.”
The court was told despite the woman’s shocking actions, her fear of being ostracised eventuated — with her housemates refusing to have her back.
Judge Petrusa sentenced the woman to 14 months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
She said the woman’s situation, called for “mercy”.
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