Welfare organisations have raised red flags for the Hout Bay community after foetuses were dumped in two separate incidents last weekend.
Police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch said the first foetus was found in a sewerage drain in the harbour precinct on Friday June 22. Local photographer Peter Michaels, who saw the foetus, said it appeared as though it had been there for some time.
The second foetus was discovered on an open field near Aggette Street in Imizamo Yethu at about 10.30am on Saturday.
“Two inquest dockets were opened. No arrests have been made as yet,” Warrant Officer Lesch said.
Bronwyn Moore, director of Hout Bay-based Community Cohesion, which provides therapeutic sessions and assistance to people who have been victims of violence or crime, said she had never encountered foetuses being dumped in Hout Bay before.
“Young girls can become desperate, but they need to know that there are always options,” she said.
“Birth control is free and they do have the option of having an abortion. In Hout Bay, there is every conceivable organisation available to assist them in making decisions, hosting teen workshops to seminars on parenting skills. This should not be happening in Hout Bay.”
Liz Huckle, of the Hout Bay Health Forum, was also deeply concerned about the discovery of the foetuses.
“This is the first time I have heard of this happening in Hout Bay. It is very troubling,” she said.
The issue was added as a priority to the Health Forum’s agenda at a meeting earlier this week, so that members could get a sense from welfare and civic organisations how serious the issues was becoming.
“This needs to be addressed urgently. It is dreadful for the community.”
Dee Blackie, a consultant to the the National Adoption Coalition of SA, has conducted extensive research into unplanned pregnancies and child abandonment in South Africa.
Ms Blackie is currently abroad but in an email interview with the Sentinel, she said her research had shown drug addiction and blessers were contributing factors to a woman’s decision to abandon her child.
The practice in which young girls and women are bought expensive items by older men or “blessers” in return for sex has become widespread in Hout Bay.
Community Cohesion estimates that half of the men in Imizamo Yethu act as blessers to younger women and girls (“Girls caught in blessers’ grip”, Sentinel, September 29, 2017).
“But the primary reasons are those of poverty and a lack of familial support. As these babies were considered ‘foetuses’, it sounds like they were the result of a late, third trimester abortion,” she said.
“This is slightly different to abandonment, as in many instances young women, on discovering their pregnancy (often only late into their second trimester as that is when the baby starts to move) try to secure a legal abortion, but are told they are too late. No one offers them option counselling or provides them with the support they need at this difficult time.”
She said the women then approached illegal abortion practitioners who gave them a drug that brought on contractions.
“The woman is told that the pregnancy will ‘dissolve’ inside them, but all that happens is that they have a premature birth. In shock, many women then leave the foetus, which is why so many babies are found in latrines.”
Her research had shown that most young women were shamed and blamed for falling pregnant, and felt very much alone.
“The decision to abandon a child is usually a very desperate choice, so perhaps more needs to be done to reach out to young women in your community. Most women who abandon have already been abandoned by the father of their child, their family and the support systems that are supposed to protect them, for example their church, the staff at their local clinic or hospital and their local representatives of social development.”
Last year, the National Adoption Coalition of SA released new research into the incidence of child abandonment.
A total of 26 organisations representing 33 NGO-run child and youth care centres (CYCC) took part in the research, 10% of all such registsred centres in South Africa.
The research showed that while child abandonment had declined slightly, the number of anonymous abandonments had increased which meant that there is very little chance of these children ever being reunited with their biological families.
Reasons cited by child protection officers for the increase in anonymous abandonment include a lack of support or social services for foreign mothers in the government departments of justice, home affairs, health, police services and social development.
Another reason given is that hospitals have significantly improved their security and protocols around child birth in South Africa, making anonymous safe abandonment in hospitals unlikely.