A 24-year-old Nepalese immigrant living in England was charged with infanticide last week and sentenced to community service for killing her hours-old newborn daughter and abandoning the child’s body in a public park.
Babita Rai was 20 years old and recently immigrated from Nepal when she gave birth in the middle of the night in a public park in May 2017. Her baby girl was born at 35 weeks gestation. Terrified because she was an unwed mother and would be looked down on by her family back home, Rai, or possibly an accomplice, repeatedly smashed the newborn’s skull and then abandoned her body beneath some bushes. A park gardener found the deceased Baby M, as police named her, several days later with her umbilical cord and her mother’s placenta still attached. The baby girl weighed 4lbs 12oz.
After eluding capture for three years following the incident, Rai was convicted by DNA evidence in 2020 and was jailed for 385 days before her May and June 2021 trial. The prosecutor in the case noted:
Within a very short time of birth, the baby suffered multiple fractures to her skull with associated internal bleeding and brain swelling. Expert evidence indicates these were the result of multiple blunt force impacts and or significant crush injuries….
Howsoever caused, they were deliberately inflicted injuries and could not have been sustained by the baby accidentally, either during the process of labour, even a traumatic one, or afterwards, for example the baby falling on the floor.
Tragically, Baby M undoubtedly suffered an agonizing death as she did not succumb to her injuries for at least several hours. “The baby girl survived the injuries for perhaps between two and 12 hours, the likelihood being closer to two than 12. Expert evidence suggests when she died she was less than six hours old.”
Rai was initially convicted of murder in May, but the charge was changed to infanticide in June. While a murder charge would have led to much more severe penalties and jail time, the infanticide charge led only to two years of community service and 30 days of court-ordered rehabilitation.
According to the Daily Mail, “The crime of infanticide was introduced in England in the 1920s to ensure women who killed their children in their first year would not be charged with murder, and therefore sentenced to death. It applies if the mother is found to have mental health arising from giving birth or a disorder from giving birth.” Rai did in fact deny both the murder and infanticide charges, and her lawyer alleged that she was under tremendous mental duress at the time.
Jurors apparently accepted Rai’s protestations of innocence, as the judge summarized, “So far as you were concerned, the balance of your mind was disturbed. [You were] living in a country that was not your home where you did not speak the language, where you were unable to access the services that are there to assist pregnant women and new mothers, and were wholly dependent on your family for whom this baby would have been regarded as a curse and not a blessing.”
The judge appeared to further justify Rai’s behavior, saying:
You are a woman of good character. This offence was committed when you were under the must intolerable pressure. You kept the pregnancy a secret, you yourself were in denial that you were pregnant. When you came to give birth, the psychological trauma from which you had been suffering came to a head. No longer could you deny the existence of what was now a living newborn baby girl. You or very possibly a person you were with inflicted dreadful injuries on that baby girl.
Devastatingly, the extenuating circumstances cited by the judge as reasons why Ms. Rai killed her child, such as living in a foreign country and not speaking the language, are eerily reminiscent of the rationales given to justify abortion in various cases. Ms. Rai’s situation was indeed challenging, but her problems were not solved by the intentional killing of her newborn child. Similarly, the intentional killing of a preborn child by abortion is never a humane response to desperate circumstances.
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