baby_abandonment.jpgThe mother of baby George Francis, found abandoned in a trash can on a Gulf Air plane, has been taken into the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), reports. Teresa (real name withheld) admits that she is George Francis’s mother. She bound her stomach to hide her pregnancy and gave birth in the plane’s comfort room. She was traced thanks to the blood imprints left on her seat 40-D, which led the airline to discover her identity.

NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula said Teresa cries all the time and shows signs of weakness. She has expressed interest in seeing her baby. The Department of Social Welfare and Development said they would check her into psychological counseling and use a DNA test to confirm that the baby is indeed her son. The NBI is looking into whether or not Teresa has been sexually abused while working abroad.
But George Francis is not alone--an infant was found dead in a trashcan aboard the SuperFerry 19, while babies were also found abandoned in Blumentritt, Pangasinan, Manila Cathedral, and Quiapo Church respectively, Spot.PH reports.

This alarming slew of baby abandonment cases has caused a worldwide uproar. In order to shed more light on the issue, however, it is important to look into the mothers’ psyche, as well. What could have led these women into abandoning their babies or worse, committing neonaticide (i.e. the act of killing a newborn within its first 24 hours)? Find out what research and psychologists have to say about the causes of baby abandonment.


According to the Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center at the University of California, massive denial features prominently in situations of baby abandonment and neonaticide. An article in the Hong Kong Medical Journal says women who commit neonaticide often don’t acknowledge their pregnancy. It goes on to explain two types of denial: affective and pervasive. Affective denial occurs when a woman is aware of her pregnancy, but detaches herself emotionally from the situation, such that she is unprepared when she finally delivers her baby. 

Women in pervasive denial, on the other hand, deny their pregnancies completely--so much so that they don’t manifest physical signs of being pregnant, like feeling sick or gaining weight. They think of labor as bowel movement and may not even realize it when they eventually give birth. For example, the mother of the SuperFerry baby claimed she was urinating when she suddenly gave birth to the infant, Spot.PH. She fell unconscious and realized the baby was in the toilet bowl afterward. She had been eight months along at the time.


Why do women deny their pregnancy? One of the contributing factors is social isolation, says a Youth Advocate Report on the protection of vulnerable newborn children. Bernardita Azurin-Quimpo, psychologist and counselor, supports this saying, “She may be in a situation where she feels she cannot muster social support for herself and for her child.  She is isolated, and she has no friends or family to confide in, as would be the case of OFWs who get pregnant while working abroad.” A single woman expecting is often shunned by society because of the lack of a partner or the sanctity of marriage to justify her pregnancy. The lack of emotional support from the people around her thus contributes to her shame and anxiety about having an unwanted baby.


Most of the women who commit neonaticide are “young, unmarried, and physically healthy,” says the Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center. “In the case of public abandonment, the women are often not mature enough to thoughtfully weigh their options or the consequences of their actions.” Being young and vulnerable, the woman’s shame about her situation easily triggers her emotions. She may even feel abandoned herself, Quimpo notes, especially if the child’s father refuses to acknowledge that the child is his.

Alternatively, Quimpo says, “She may be clinically depressed or suffering from postpartum depression.  She may not be thinking straight, in a state of shock or confusion.” This condition may cause the new mother to feel tired, worried, and worthless, MedlinePlus says. This may sometimes lead her to hurting herself or her baby.


An unwanted baby born out of sexual abuse, incest, or any such instances also contributes to cases of baby abandonment, according to the Child Welfare League of America. The baby’s existence becomes evidence of her captor’s hold on her, the emotional turmoil becoming something that can trigger denial of the pregnancy.


The Hong Kong Medical Journal describes neonaticidal women as “a subgroup of the sexually active population whose adverse social and economic conditions preclude them from having and raising children.” These women view having a baby as an obstacle to living the life they are living since they are not equipped or ready to take on the responsibility of parenthood.

In the end, though, Quimpo reminds us that every situation is different. “The factors that can drive a mother to abandon her child have to do with her mindset and the circumstances she finds herself in.” More often that not, abandonment stems back to a feeling of intense desperation that overrides logic. “A person who is in such a desperate situation may find it difficult to ask for help, especially if she feels that what she has done is a cause for shame.”

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