12/11/06 — No pity, just outrage: This is not Raleigh mother’s first abandoned baby incident

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No pity, just outrage: This is not Raleigh mother’s first abandoned baby incident

Maybe she was ashamed or maybe Michelle Dawn Richardson of Wendell just didn’t want anybody to know that she had given birth to a child out of wedlock.

No matter what the reason, the 27-year-old decided to take her newborn baby and leave him in a McDonald’s restroom — with another child in tow.

But before you conjure up the image of a poor mother with nowhere to turn, there are a few more facts you should know.

Ms. Richardson was aware of the law that allows mothers of unwanted children to drop them off at a hospital or other approved location. There are reports this was the second time she has abandoned a child. She claimed she couldn’t find an appropriate drop-off site last week, so she knew about the law.

There are many levels of this case that should scare anyone who wonders about the future of this country. Not the least of these is how a mother could leave her newborn in a bathroom.

As we listen to the facts of this case, perhaps we should think a little bit more about the steps we need to take to make people understand their responsibilities not only as parents, but as human beings — and how to make them understand that if they make the wrong choices, there are consequences.

Births like this are troubling — especially when they indicate a pattern. And this is not an isolated case — at least not around the country. Offering alternatives for these parents is not enough. We need to find a way to discourage irresponsible people from bringing more children into already troubled homes. And we need to do it soon.

There will be calls of alarm from those who believe that rules or severe penalties such as benefits limits might infringe on the rights of some, but if getting tougher means fewer babies abandoned or one less child facing abuse and neglect, it might be worth considering stepping on a few toes.

Compassion is one thing. We need to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves — and those who need a temporary hand until they get back on their feet.

But if we continue to make it easy for people like Michelle Dawn Richardson to live their lives like they have no responsibilities or consequences, we are going to continue to hear horrifying stories like this and to pay to correct them.

What we have done in the past does not seem to be working. Perhaps it is time for a new plan.

Published in Editorials on December 11, 2006 11:02 AM