SINGAPORE — A domestic helper who abandoned her newborn son in a recycling bin after giving birth to him in a toilet at her employer’s house had earlier consumed pills in an unsuccessful bid to abort her baby.
The 29-year-old Indonesian woman was jailed five months on Thursday (5 November) after she pleaded guilty to one count of exposure and abandonment of a child under 12 years by a parent, even as her lawyer Anand Nalachandran appealed to the court to consider the distressing circumstances she was in.
The woman, who cannot be named due to a gag order, appeared emotional during her court hearing via videolink. She had dated a Bangladeshi man and had sex with him during their relationship before they broke up this year.
After finding out about her pregnancy, she became worried as she was facing the prospect of losing her job and being sent back to her home country, Nalachandran said. She was alone throughout her ordeal, save for other domestic helpers that she confided in, the lawyer told District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan.
The woman had only found out about her pregnancy about two months before she gave birth. At the time, she consumed some pills in an attempt to abort the baby but it did not work.
On 27 July 2020, the woman was at her employer’s home when she felt contractions. At about 1pm, she gave birth to a baby boy in the toilet and cut the umbilical cord. She then cleaned the newborn, who weighed 2.8kg, and wrapped him in a white towel. She then gave her son water to drink and placed him in a white paper bag. She also covered the baby’s mouth as he was crying loudly, but did not injure him.
Her employer returned home at about 2pm and a few hours later, the woman left the house with her newborn as she was afraid her employer would find out about the baby. She walked for some 15 minutes and decided to place her son in a recycling bin, which contained some newspapers, at Tai Keng Gardens. She had chosen the location randomly, the court heard, in the hopes that a passerby would find the baby.
She then closed the lid, but placed a stone to prop the lid up, so that the baby would have access to air, before leaving.
At about 7.45pm, a man left his house to smoke and heard a faint sound nearby. His other family members joined him and the group found the baby in the crumpled white paper bag in the bin. A towel was covering his face.
The man called the police and the baby was conveyed to KK Women's and Children's Hospital. The baby was in a stable condition as of 19 August this year. The woman was arrested on 29 July.
The prosecution sought six to eight months’ jail for the woman, noting that the baby was “extremely vulnerable and wholly dependent” on his mother for protection as he was unable to fend for himself.
Nalachandran said that the maid had been placed in circumstances “almost unimaginable” after she found herself pregnant. She was worried about how her work pass might be revoked, and how she would be unable to return to work in Singapore. After she consumed the pills, she decided not to go for an abortion as she did not want to “compound her mistake with another mistake”.
“I urge the court to consider the predicament she faced…she was overwhelmed by emotions, it is an unfathomable choice for any mother and she was beyond desperate,” said Nalachandran, adding that the woman’s behaviour was “atypical and abnormal”. The lawyer noted that a psychiatric assessment could not be conducted on time as the woman had been remanded since her arrest.
In response, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tin Shu Min acknowledged the turmoil the woman was in, but said that she was “not a babe in the woods”. The 29-year-old mother had two months to consider what to do with the child, said the DPP.
Nalachandran replied, “I don’t think it’s in anyone's power to fully understand what she was going through on that day when she was delivering on her own, it cannot be seen to be a normal situation.”
District Judge Shaiffudin agreed that the woman’s post-partum actions cannot be judged “as if similar to a normal person”.
For her charge, she could have been jailed up to seven years, and fined, or both.
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