Exhausted by Corona Virus, social distancing, masks, Trump-tweets, locked down beauty salons, restaurants beaches and bars? Gun-toting cosplayers demanding to practice their Constitutional right to make you sick? Murdered for being Black? Cop riots? And now you’ve got a cranky new baby on your hands.
Never fear! There is a solution.
Baby Safe Haven.
Drop that bothersome baby off at your nearest hospital ER, fire, or police station If you are in or near Indiana, it’s even easier. Make your deposit at the nearest baby box-in-the-wall. You’ll never have to get up for a 3 o’clock feeding again!
You think I’m kidding? I’m not.
Last month the Wyoming Department of Family Services issued a press release published in many of the state’s newspapers, urging new mothers pandemic-stressed and “feeling too overwhelmed to care for their infant,” to consider the Safe Haven “legal and responsible option.”
No word if anyone has taken the state up on its offer.
This plea reminds me of the 2006-2008 attempt in California to expand the state’s Safe Haven law to increase dump age eligibility from 72 hours or younger to one year of age; then to 14 days; finally to a desperate 7 days. Apparently not enough incognito babies were getting scooped up
While politicians loved the idea, Safe Haven bigwigs didn’t so much. They argued that an increased timeframe would undermine the actual purpose of the law: a legal framework for parents to anonymously no-fuss transfer custody of a just-born in danger of discard or death by parent, not to create a parental test-drive We always knew that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn’t claim some kind of executive privilege and cancel the state’s Safe Haven law. When the expansion bills hit his desk each time, though,The Terminator terminated them.
2006: Some experts have raised concerns about this bill, which I share, that instead of improving child safety, increasing the time that a baby may be surrendered from 72-hours to 30-days, will have the opposite effect, putting newborns in greater risk by keeping them in an unsafe environment without proper care and supervision.
2007: California’s law was carefully crafted to balance the creation of a safe surrender option while preserving the rights of children. The current 72-hour period contained in law allows for a no-questions-asked safe surrender of a newborn, and is supported by research and statistics which indicate that most neonaticide occurs within the first day. Experts have raised concerns that instead of improving child safety, increasing the time that a baby may be surrendered from 72 hours will put newborns in greater risk by keeping them in an unsafe environment without proper care and supervision.
2008: I have vetoed similar measures twice before and there is no new data or information to support a change in my position. California’s Safe Surrender Law is carefully crafted to provide an emergency alternative to a woman in crisis while also preserving the fundamental rights of the child.
Politicians pimping expansions didn’t seem to much trust women or give much thought to mothers, motherhood, and children in general. They acted, in fact, as if women treated pregnancy, birth, and the responsibilities of parenthood as whimsically as they would ordering harem pants online from WISH during the pandemic.
Oops. This baby isn’t what I thought it would be. Time for Plan B. The dumpster and death.
The bills (original and expansion) were framed as mother-friendly, and just another consumer “choice “for women. (About 20 years ago I had a chance encounter with Dr. Elizabeth Rex, a forced-birth activist, adoption, and Safe Haven promoter in New York and surrounding states. I asked her about Safe Havens, and she happily flapped her hands in the air squawking “Choices. Choices. Women need more choices.”). Should my harem pants be floral or Aztec Elephant print?
What choices did the California expansion bills offer women? As if 9 months and 3 days weren’t long enough, they gave women more time to decide if they were actually good motherhood material. They gave women more time to decide not to kill their children. They didn’t bother to mention that neonaticide and discard are very rare. They didn’t bother to mention the causes of neonaticide and discard. They didn’t bother to mention options and support for things like public and private financial and other practical assistance and support—or even a legitimate adoption plan as a last resort.
Promoters apparently hadn’t even bothered to read the Safely Surrendered and Abandoned Infants in Los Angeles County, a dedtaiiled study of on Safe Haven and infant discard and neglect published by ICAN each year starting in 1999. (Early reports are no longer online but you can read 2009-2018 here. Each report contains much of the data from earlier reports so you can see what early reports would have told the pols if they’d bothered.). Although self-admittedly limited in scope due to anonymity and secrecy in California’s Safe Haven law that makes a full accounting impossible, the reports paint a depressing picture of self-reported parents–usually mothers–who use the law. None of them expressed homicidal tendencies, the raison d’entre of Safe Haven laws.
What Safe Haven users did express was an inability, due to structural social, cultural, and economic rot, sexism and implied racism that inhibits their ability or a belief in their ability, to care for their own babies. The top reasons those newborns were turned over were unwanted/concealed/denied pregnancy, followed by poverty and immigration status, all rooted in class, race, and misogyny. “Stress” was not noted as factor.
Instead of creating a fact-based realistic bill to decrease the use of Safe Havens and dangerous abandonment, politicians attempted to exasperate the problem with a nonsensical expansion that victimized more families. Politicians conceived an alternative narrative: Dirty diapers and sleep deprivation can be a real drag. Somebody should have told me.
Now, obviously, so can a pandemic. What’s the dif?
I wrote about these expansion campaigns several times. In Stupid Things Californians Say About Baby Safe Haven Laws, I quoted lawmakers and infuencers explaining why test-drive motherhood and drive-by relinquishment were good for babies and women. And destroy families. If advanced to their logical conclusion,nearly every parent soon would be transformed into an anonymous and unregulated baby dumper.
The thesis: A mother just needs more time to evaluate her relationship with her baby now that it is here, and what to do with it.
- Drive-by parenthood. “Scared and panicked “new mothers need longer than 72 hours to grasp the “gravity of their situation.”
- C-Sections: Women who undergo C-sections often remain hospitalized under medication beyond 72 hours, hardly enough to learn to cope with baby.
- Child abuse. New parents who harm babies immediately after birth need extra time to let the newborns “heal” before they drop them off at the Safe Haven station—and incidentally, escape the long arm of the law for themselves\ by doing the “right thing.”
- Post-Postpartum Depression: Some kind of weird “cure.”
And my favorite from Rep. Melissa Murphy, mother of 2:
- Sleep deprivation. “Things take a while to kick in , and you don’t realize if you’re alone and you don’t have any help you’re basically up 24 hours a day.”
Expansion bills were opposed not only by Bastard Nation and Cal Open but by the godparents of the California Safe Haven movement--LA County Supervisor Don Knabe and Debi Faris-Cifelli, keeper of the Garden of Angels baby cemetery in Yuicapa,They were joined by heavy hitters. The LA County District Attorney, LA County Sheriff, California State Welfare Directors Association and California Department of Social Services strenuously opposed the bills fearing that the law would be diluted since the whole point of the original law was a “safe haven” for brand new mothers with brand new babies in a so-called crisis situation. The law was not supposed to facilitate fast -track worst-practice relinquishment and adoption of older babies. Opponents even used a Bastard Nation argument that Safe Haven would be used as a way to get around traditional surrender. As Faris-Cifelli wrote to Schwarzenegger [“AB 1873] “ changes the dynamics of the law. “Knabe, issued a statement during Round 3:
Unfortunately, for the third consecutive year, the success of Safe Surrender is again threatened. Right now in Sacramento, lawmakers in the California State Assembly are debating a Bill that would do far more harm than good to Safe Surrender.
Since then California legislators have remained quiet on expansion but other states haven’t At least three states allow 1-year olds to be dumped on the ER counter. And let’s not forget the Nebraska fiasco!
Wyoming however, is the only state that I’ve found that encourages Safe Havens as a bromide for stress—and pandemic cabin fever– by promoting a permanent “solution” to a temporary problem. While relinquishment and adoption propaganda traditionally take that route, very few adoption promoters go so far to say it out loud and proud as Wyoming Family Services
Who thought this is a good idea?