A B.C. reproductive health group says St. Paul's Hospital's baby drop-off is an important service that will help assure the safety of unwanted newborns.

The so-called Angel's Cradle program, which launches on Monday, will provide a safe place for desperate mothers to abandon their babies while remaining anonymous -- as opposed to leaving them at a bus stop or in a bathroom.

Greg Smith, executive director of Options for Sexual Health, says he approves of the service.

"Anything that supports the health of new babies and new moms is a good thing," he said.

Smith said the cradle is beneficial, but must be offered alongside other social programs such as sexual education, contraceptive services, pregnancy counselling and support for mothers.

"A mother who comes to a decision like this really is in distress, she may have not had any social or emotional supports going into this pregnancy," Smith said. "Having some outlet for her is important."

The cradle, set in a protected area near the hospital's emergency entrance, is set up to automatically trigger an alarm 30 seconds after a baby is placed inside.

After the alarm has sounded, doctors at the hospital will assess the baby's health, and put the child in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development after any necessary medical treatment is complete.

Geoffrey Cundiff, head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Paul's, says the hospital felt compelled to build the cradle after hearing media reports of babies who had been abandoned rather than put up for adoption.

"There are mechanisms for women to give their baby up through the Ministry of Children and Family Development, but some women want to remain anonymous, whether for social or personal reasons," he said.

"Those women really aren't left with options and they abandon their children in unsafe places."

The hospital will make no attempt to locate people who use the cradle, and the Vancouver Police Department will not pursue charges against them. It is intended for newborns only, Cundiff said, and will also be stocked with information about alternative options mothers can pursue.

"My hope is that this is never used," Cundiff said.

Information on reproductive health services is available at the Options for Sexual Health website.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Shannon Paterson