On August 24, the California General Assembly passsed by a 70-9 vote AB 1873. The law will let parents “legally” and anonymously abandon infants up to 30 days of age through the Safely Surrendered Baby Act (safe haven). The current law limits the age of the baby to 72 hours.
AB 1873 was opposed by numerous adoption reform orgaizations including Bastard Nation. It was also opposed by The California Association of Counties, The California Welfare Directors Association, The LA County DA’s Office, The LA County Board of Supervisors, the LA County Sheriff, the California Department of Social Services– and even personally by LA County Supervisor Don Knabe, perhaps the biggest supporter of SSBA in the state.
Below is the letter Bastard Nation has faxed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asking him to veto the bill.
To add your voice to the veto, here is the contact information:
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Attention: Constituent Affairs
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:
Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization asks you to veto AB 1873 which expands California’s Safely Surrendered Baby Act, (safe haven law) to let parents “legally” abandon infants up to 30 days old of age. AB 1873 is bad child welfare and family policy and endangers the integrity of every California family.
Because infants surrendered under SSBA are expected to be placed for adoption, Bastard Nation’s objections to AB 1873 focus on how the amended SSBA will effect the civil rights of adoptees, potential adoptees, their birth parents and ultimately the future of ethical adoption in California.
*AB 1873 increases the pool of anonymous children available for adoption through unethical and unprofessional practices. It erodes the civil right of adoptees to their identity and heritage. The SSBA establishes parallel child welfare systems, where one system opposes the long-standing principles of the other: informed consent and a full record of identifying information and social and medical histories. SSBA eliminates adoptees’ rights to identity by denying their access to original birth and heritage records.
*AB 1873 promotes “legal“ abandonment as just another consumer choice for parents. It opens the door to universal “legal” abandonment of children of any age. SSBA advocate, the late Dr. William Pierce, wrote on the Internet newsgroup alt.adoption that he hoped legalized newborn abandonment via safe haven laws would be the first step in legalizing anonymous abandonment of older children because adoption surrender procedures were “too difficult” for some parents. That the original AB 1873 expanded the legal abandonment age to one year shows that legislating anonymous dumping at any age is not far-fetched.
*AB 1873 increases the pool of parents–particularly non-surrendering parents–denied their right to due process by eliminating their ability to locate the dependency proceeding to which they are a party. SSBA replaces professional best practice standards with unprofessional and unethical “non-bureaucratic placement” by letting parents abandon solely for convenience or out of ignorance. It permits one parent to “relinquish” a child without the knowledge or consent of the other–usually the father. The law encourages parents literally to default at their hearings. Supporters call that “proper” and “courageous.” We call it unethical and irresponsible
*AB 1873 expands the number of disenfranchised natural parents, encourages unethical behavior, and hides crime. Safely Surrendered and Abandoned Infants in Los Angeles County–2002-2005, a study published by the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abandonment and Neglect (ICAN), portrays LA County SSBA-protected parents for whom data is known as mostly as poor, overwhelmed, frightened, and ignorant of child welfare practice. A good number of parents in the ICAN report [pdf] as well as those who appear in newspaper stories throughout the state appear to be undocumented workers, leery of seeking professional assistance. In some states, safe haven laws haven been used to hide statutory rape and drug abuse.
*AB 1872 reframes SSBA as a tool to “save newborns” from potentially “murderous parents” to one that permits “overwhelmed parents” to run away from their responsibilities via the drive-by dump. News accounts of SSBA surrenders include stories of clean, immaculately dressed newborns with stuffed animals, baby bottles and blankets, and notes to doctors, left at ERs. In several cases the parent has communicated to the safe haven recipient that they were surrendering the child anonymously out of love or because they lacked resources. Those parents did not feel homicidal, but simply wanted a quick or secret adoption.
*AB 1873 expands the pool of troubled parents who are denied access to family assistance. Temporary and permanent surrender options have existed for decades and are used by thousands of new parents every year. We have welfare and other programs through children’s services that new parents can use when they lack funds or support. But with SSBA’s “no blame, no shame, no name” policy, parents are kept ignorant of these services and instead are encouraged to make uninformed brutal life-changing decisions for their children and themselves.
*AB 1873 will do nothing to halt the deaths of newborns through neglect or murder. Since it’s enactment in 2000,SSBA has done nothing to halt the deaths of newborns. A 2005 survey of county coroners found that the number of newborns dying from abandonment and neglect since 2001 remained at 13-15 per year.
No law is valid because it might “save a life.” Otherwise, we would not have our Bill of Rights. We do not let the police pull drivers over randomly and give them Breathalyzer tests because “it might save a life.” We do not outlaw guns because it might “save a life.” The state shouldn’t help parents hide children from each other because it might save a life. The state should not encourage parents to irresponsibly wipe out their children’s identity and heritage because it might save a life. The civil rights of adopted persons should not be shredded because it might safe a life.
AB 1873’s expansion of SSBA is open season on California’s children and families.
Please veto AB 1873.
Marley Elizabeth Greiner
Executive Chair, Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization