In 2001 Austria introduced legislation enabling women to give birth in hospital anonymously and free of charge (see decree of Federal Ministry of Justice on baby hatches and anonymous birth – JMZ 4.600/42-I.1/2001). Both anonymous birth and baby hatches are designed to protect babies from abandonment or death. With an anonymous birth the mother does not reveal her identity: her personal details are not registered. The prerequisite is that she finds herself in a hopeless situation, an „emergency“ which must be justified at a confidential counselling session in the framework of child and youth welfare. Mothers in Austria do not have a fundamental right to anonymous birth.
A baby hatch, also known as a „baby flap“, is a facility that allows a baby to be abandoned at a hospital. The first baby hatch in Austria was introduced in Vienna in 2000, and today there are currently 15 in seven of Austria’s Länder. Vorarlberg and Burgenland however have none.
Since 2008 both anonymous births and the number of infants found in baby hatches have been recorded by the annual child and youth welfare statistics (known until 2013 as the youth welfare report). The use of baby hatches (fluctuating between 2 and 6 cases over the last nine years) is outstripped by the number of anonymous births, totalling 30-50 per year and averaging 43.6 between 2008 and 2016. During this period the majority of anonymous births were seen in Styria and Vienna, an average of 9.1 and 8.7 per year respectively. No relevant trend can however be identified here. The use of baby hatches is highly sporadic. Between 2008 and 2016 they were frequently not used more than twice a year in the whole of Austria, and a total of 30 times in the entire country during these nine years.