From the Independent:
The rights of a child to know its parents are written into international law, but in France that doesn't mean very much.
Here is one of the few countries in Europe where children can be born without officially having any parents. The result is generations of Les Enfants X, and enough sorrow to fill the Seine.
The roots of the tradition of women having the right to give birth in secret lie deep in French history. The practice was codified during the Revolution, which introduced the principle that abandoned infants would become charges of the state, or pupilles de l'état.
For most of its history, the law has been aimed at shielding the mothers of illegitimate children, and at discouraging infanticide, abortion and the use of any sort of contraceptive practice.