An Iowa City woman has been charged with child endangerment after she gave birth in a hospital bathroom and tried to flush her newborn down the toilet. Since the infant was not crying, the mother assumed the baby was dead. When the toilet didn’t work, the woman wrapped the newborn in a pillowcase and left it in a trash can.
According to the Press Citizen, 22-year-old Ashley R. Hautzenrader gave birth to the baby at around 9:24 p.m. on May 8 at John Colloton Pavillion at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Employees of the facility found the newborn in the trash can shortly after the mother abandoned it. Police quickly found Ashley Hautzenrader and confronted her about the crime. She admitted to leaving the newborn in the trash and trying to flush it down the toilet. She explained that she didn’t know she was pregnant before entering the bathroom and assumed the baby was stillborn because it was silent.
Fortunately, the baby survived the entire horrifying incident. However, many of the details of the story remain a secret due to certain Iowa health privacy laws, so it is unclear what will happen to the newborn after its mother tried to flush it down the toilet. University spokesman Tom Moore explained that he can not reveal the health condition the baby was found in, or even the gender. He is also not legally allowed to reveal if Ashley Hautzenrader was a patient at the hospital at the time she gave birth, and even identifying the employees who found the newborn would violate the privacy laws protecting the mother’s healthcare information.
Interim Public Safety Director Lucy Wiederholt reported that the case of the abandoned newborn is still being investigated. But according to USA Today, Ashley Hautzenrader was arrested as a result of the incident and charged with child endangerment, which is an aggravated misdemeanor. If convicted, the mother could spend up to two years in prison for trying to flush her newborn down the toilet. As of Tuesday morning, Ashley Hautzenrader was still being held at an Iowa county jail, but she was eventually released under pretrial supervision.
“She has to check in with them and not have any other law infractions. They give [her] a list of what to do and what not to do,” explained jail administrator Bill Deatsch.
Surprisingly, Hautzenrader was not in need of any medical attention following the surprise birth. Not only did the pregnancy cause the mother so few physical difficulties that she was clueless about the whole thing, the birth itself apparently happened without any medical complications.
“We wouldn’t have taken her in if she had severe medical issues [and] needed attention,” Deatsch added.
Court records found online reveal that Hautzenrader was already involved in a paternity and child support recovery case a year ago, in May of 2015. This means the mother likely already has another child and was attempting to get custody of him or her. But privacy laws also protect information regarding who the father of the newborn may be.
The state of Iowa does have laws in place to protect parents who can not take care of their children. The Safe Haven Law enacted in 2002 allows mothers and fathers to leave a newborn baby at a hospital within the first 14 days of its life without any risk of prosecution for child neglect or abandonment.
Do you think Ashley Hautzenrader should have resorted to this law? Or do you believe she was genuinely surprised by the pregnancy?
[Photo via the Iowa City Police Department]