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Japan's 1st 'confidential birth' avoided as woman agrees to give identity

Jikei Hospital Director Takeshi Hasuda speaks about avoiding what would have been Japan's first "confidential birth" at a Nov. 10, 2021 news conference in the city of Kumamoto. (Mainichi/Yuki Kurisu)

KUMAMOTO -- Japan's first potential "confidential birth" has been avoided after a woman at a hospital here agreed to provide her identity to outside parties, following her child's delivery this month, the hospital announced on Nov. 10.

    The woman had been under the protection of Jikei Hospital in the city of Kumamoto since around mid-October, when she arrived requesting to give birth there anonymously. According to the Nov. 10 announcement, the woman's family has been informed of the birth and she is now caring for the baby.

    Since 2007, Jikei Hospital has operated a "baby hatch" -- formally the Konotori no Yurikago (stork's cradle) -- where parents who cannot raise their babies alone can leave them anonymously. In December 2019, the hospital also introduced a system allowing expectant mothers anonymity to prevent isolated births, which could impose life-threatening risks for the mother and infant. It offers the service on condition that the mother discloses her identity to the head of its neonatal consultation office.

    The hospital would then submit the birth registration to the municipal government without the mother's name. The child would be able to access their parents' information at the hospital upon reaching a certain age, the institution says.

    However, the city had requested Jikei Hospital not to implement the confidential birth system, citing several unresolved problems including damage to a child's right to know their origins and how the child's family registry would be handled. Japan's family registers list the names of one's parents, spouse and children, and are required for many official transactions.

    The hospital also revealed that another woman is consulting with them about an anonymous birth. Hospital director Takeshi Hasuda told reporters, "If another person comes saying they 'want a confidential birth,' we cannot very well refuse. Even within current law, I want the authorities to make it possible for births that are safe for both mother and child."

    (Japanese original by Yuki Kurisu and Sonoko Nakamura, Kumamoto Bureau)

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