Madison, Wis. newspaper to stop printing birth announcements for security reasons

  • Associated Press
  • January 1, 2014 - 5:35 PM

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin State Journal will no longer publish birth announcements because Madison's two birthing hospitals will stop providing the information due to privacy and safety concerns.

Parents traditionally have saved birth announcements as keepsakes. But after Wednesday, neither Meriter Hospital nor St. Mary's Hospital will provide any details about new births, the newspaper reported ( ).

Birth listings "set people up as targets for somebody who might want to steal a baby," said Kathy Kostrivas, a Meriter executive.

"It's an effort to improve safety and security for families," agreed Kim Sveum, a St. Mary's spokeswoman.

Kostrivas and Sveum say they're following the advice of groups such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which cautions new parents about using birth announcements.

At least 290 babies have been abducted in the U.S. since 1983, including 132 from hospitals, according to the center. Four cases between 1989 and 1993 were linked to birth announcements, the center says.

"Our world is so different now than it was 25 to 30 years ago," said Cathy Nahirny, the center's senior analyst for infant abduction cases. Abductors "are using every means available to them to select a possible victim infant."

The State Journal says it only published announcements from parents who consented to share the news. The newspaper also printed listings only when the information came from a hospital or other trusted source, city editor Phil Brinkman said.

"Like obituaries, the potential for mischief is too great when it comes to taking this information directly from individuals over the phone or by email, which is why we rely on hospitals to provide it on the parents' behalf," Brinkman said.

The paper's free birth announcements included the baby's gender and birthdate, the hospital name and the parents' full names. The listings omitted the parents' hometown.

Jade Lewis, a Madison mother who posted a birth announcement in the paper after her daughter was born at St. Mary's in August, said she was disappointed the listings were going away. She clipped her daughter's announcement for her scrapbook, and she received congratulations from distant friends who learned of the birth from the listing, she said.

"It was a nice little celebratory blurb that made you smile," she said.

© 2014 Star Tribune