The controversial "baby hatch" scheme in Japan has seen 16 babies dropped off at the hospital and over a 1,000 people call for advise, officials said.
A Roman Catholic hospital set up the hatch a year ago, despite criticism by conservative politicians, in the hope of preventing abortions and abuse against unwanted children.
AdvertisementThe Jikei Hospital in the southern city of Kumamoto declined to say how many babies have been left in the year. Jiji Press news agency said 16 babies have been dropped off, although one was later taken back by his or her parents.
A hospital official said it has also received 501 consultations in the past 12 months.
"The number is at least over 1,000 if you include calls to hotlines set up by the city and prefectural governments," she told AFP by telephone.
Jikei Hospital director Taiji Hasuda said in a statement: "Honestly speaking, I was surprised to see there were this many troubled mothers."
He said the so-called Storks' Cradle "has performed a great role" if more people became aware of problems from unwanted pregnancies.
"As I said when it was installed, it would be best if it were not used," Hasuda said.
The hatch, modelled on a similar idea in Germany, looks like a mailbox and has pictures of storks. Parents can leave babies anonymously and the hospital will arrange care for the infants.
The idea came under fire from politicians including then prime minister Shinzo Abe, who said it would encourage irresponsibility, but the government found no legal way to stop it.
Abortion is widely accepted in Japan, where adoption outside the extended family is rare. The country is struggling to reverse a decline in population as more young people decide to delay starting families.
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