LEGALIZED BABY ABANDONMENT
SAFE HAVEN LAWS
WHAT ARE SAFE HAVEN LAWS?
Since 1999, in an attempt to prevent unsafe abandonment of babies and neonaticide, All 50 states have passed Safe Haven (sometimes called Baby Moses) laws. While statutes vary from state-to-state, most include the following provisions:
- Parent(s) or those designated by a parent(s) may anonymously drop off an ”unwanted infant” at a Safe Haven center (hospital emergency room, fire station, police station).
- No questions are asked. No identification of parent(s) is required. No social or medical history of baby is required.
- Age of Safe Haven babies range from birth to five days; some states permit up to 30 days (South Dakota and Missouri permit anonymous abandonment up to one year).
- In about half of the states immunity from prosecution for abandonment is granted to parent(s) if there is no evidence of abuse or neglect; in the other half, states allow affirmative defense to prosecution.
ARE SAFE HAVEN LAWS NECESSARY AND DO THEY WORK?
- While Safe Haven laws are well intentioned, there is no proof that they are needed or work. Currently neither the federal government nor the states require statistical tracking of baby abandonments and neonaticides—even under most Save Haven laws.
- A Lexus-Nexus search of newspapers for 1992 and 1997, commissioned by Health and Human Services, indicates that in 1992 65 infants were found abandoned (57 live and 8 dead), and in 1997 out of 3,880,894 births in the US, (including 18,507 neonatal deaths) only 105 newborns were abandoned (72 live, and 33 dead.).
- Safe Haven laws mandate anonymity, so it is nearly impossible to gauge the personal situations of those who relinquish by this method; their state of mind, their fears, and their motives. Unlike the “informed consent” clauses of abortion statutes, Safe Haven laws prohibit on-site required counseling, thus denying the parent(s) the opportunity to discuss conventional adoption plans, financial assistance programs, and alternative care.
- No serious studies in the US have been made on mothers who abandon or kill their newborns. Evidence suggests, however, that they suffer from a dissociative state in which the pregnancy is denied. Many suffer from substance abuse, mental disability, and physical abuse at the hands of family members and boyfriends. .
- Anecdotal evidence from those who work with at-risk girls and women as well as testimonies of women who have abandoned suggest that “baby dumpers” will not utilize Safe Haven programs.
BASTARD NATION OPPOSES SAFE HAVEN LAWS BECAUSE THESE LAWS:
- Deny the right of identity to infants abandoned “legally” and strips the infant of all genetic, medical and social history.
- Include little or no safeguards against third party intervention (father who doesn’t want responsibility; embarrassed grandparents).
- Ignore established birth parent revocation timeframes that permit a birth parent – usually the mother – to reclaim her child in a reasonable amount of time.
- Deny birth fathers due process.
- Contravene sections of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) which give tribes first custody rights in cases of child relinquishment.
- Deter adoption through traditional legal channels and replaces standard practice with what some Safe Haven advocates call “non-bureaucratic placement”.
- Discourage women from seeking pre-natal and post-natal medical care and counseling, thus endangering the health, well being, and even life of both the mother and the baby. In Florida, receiving centers are prohibited from even asking women if they need care.
- Create legislative bandaid solution instead of addressing the root socio-economic causes of baby abandonment and neonatacide: poverty, substance abuse, physical abuse, shame, and mental illness.
- Reject long-standing best child welfare practice.
Bastard Nation believes that it is no coincidence that Safe Haven laws have been enacted just as the efforts of Bastard Nation and other adoptee civil rights activists have begun to overturn archaic state laws which seal our records from us. One prominent sealed records lobbyist wrote recently that “disappearing privacy rights” [records access] “has led most States to pass Safe Haven laws so that women and their babies have a life-saving option of anonymously taking a baby to a hospital or other safe place.” Safe Haven laws, we believe, are simply a tool to codify secret relinquishment and adoption.
Safe Haven laws, despite their good intent, are ultimately anti-adoptee, anti-adoption, anti-child, anti-woman, and anti-family. They erase identities, deny the rights and due process of parents, and reject time-tested best practice.