Nonfamily Infant Abduction—It’s Rare, But Sometimes Violent

July 31, 2009

Every morning at 7 a.m., I get up and watch the Today Show. Yesterday morning, I heard this: “a young woman, eight months pregnant . . . found murdered on Monday. Twenty-three-year-old Darlene Haynes was discovered in the closet of her Worcester, Massachusetts apartment—her fetus had been taken from her womb.” I immediately checked to see if the channel had somehow been changed—it certainly sounded like the beginning of an episode of Law and Order: SVU.

Nonfamily infant abductions may be rare, but they do happen. And in some cases, they can turn violent. According to AJN’s September 2008 article, “Nonfamily Infant Abductions, 1983-2006,” which compared cases from 1983–1992 with those from 1993–2006, from the earlier to the later period the preferred abduction location changed: the percentage of infant abductions from health care facilities decreased, while the percentage of those from private residences nearly doubled. In 22 of the 247 cases studied, the mother was killed, and in nine of the 22 cases, a cesarean section was performed to remove the fetus from the womb, as occurred in the Darlene Haynes story.

I can’t imagine what it must feel for a mother to lose a child under any circumstance—whether taken from a shopping cart at a local grocery store, or from an obstetric unit in a hospital, or (most horribly) directly from the mother’s womb. The chances of it happening are extremely unlikely, but reasonable caution is always warranted, and the measures that have been put in place in hospitals in recent years are one excellent deterrent.

Amanda Geer, AJN administrative coordinator

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