Back in May the Wyoming Department of Health and the anti-abortion Texas Justice Foundation, in separate statements, urged pregnant women and new mothers stressed about financial and other problems during the Covid-19 pandemic to consider safe havening their babies. Stop worrying about that other mouth to feed. Relax! You can legally abandon your baby, no questions asked, and make your life simpler. And no one will ever have to know you did it.
While Wyoming’s plea was a re-set of its generic periodic press release with no political agenda, Allen Parker, the founder and president and lead counsel for the whacky Texas Justice Foundation was quite specific. “Hold on to hope,” he told pregnant women. Don’t have an “emergency abortion.” (his words) as if abortion is some kind of long-planned event and not an emergency. At the time I wrote :
The Justice Foundation’s idea of “‘hope” isn’t salary subsidies, stay-at-home jobs, universal health care, referral services, or new/increased government assistance No. Its idea of hope is to remain pregnant and then “release the baby to the community “ via Safe Haven after its born.
Parker sweetened the pot by reminding women that Safe Haven anonymous legal abandonment of a newborn is free. The state won’t charge you for its handy-dandy Safe Haven service. unlike….. what? If adoption agencies charged women to relinquish their children to them for adoption, they’d be out of business. What would happen if PAPs demanded not only the baby but a cash gift to go with it? Perhaps Parker is a fan of the classic O Henry short story, The Ransom of Red Chief.
Now, the New Jersey Department of Child and Family Services has joined the plea by issuing a New Year’s press release urging women to consider the state’s Safe Haven Law during Covid Chaos. DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer pleads (I am quoting her in full)
These last several months have been difficult for many of our state’s residents. COVID-19 and associated circumstances of unemployment, underemployment, food or housing insecurity, and social isolation-related mental health conditions can impact a person or family’s ability to care for a newborn,” “We want people to know that Safe Havens are open and following all recommended and necessary safety guidelines. The Safe Haven law provides reliable and accepting spaces, with people who understand and respect the sensitive nature of these difficult decisions.
followed by Assistant Commissioner For DCF’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency Carmen Diaz Petti’s chime-in:
We are thankful for any parent who makes the incredibly selfless and courageous decisiom to surrender their infant when life circumstances prevent them from raising the baby themselves. Even during the pandemic there are Safe Haven sites in every city and town prepared to help. No shame, no blame, no names.
It’s been interesting, if not predictable, to watch the mission of Safe Haven laws shift from saving newborns from the occasional psychotic, dissociative, drug-addled, in-denial, or scared parent who they believe would otherwise, discard or murder their newborn without the option of Safe Haven anonymous abandonment (even if as it turns out those are the parents who don’t use the option*) into a solution for temporary Covid hardship and displacement.
I am seeing more and more of this kind of rhetoric—not from official Safe Haven advocacy organizations such as Save Abandoned Babies Foundation or AMT-Children of Hope—but from marginal interest groups with theocratic/political agendas, state agencies, and media reminding parents to use Safe Haven “if you can’t take care of your child,” They give little or no suggestion that numerous other humane and free help options are available. I am reasonably certain that anonymously and legally abandoning their babies to the state is not what new parents have in mind when they’re looking for Covid-19 assistance.
I know that public and private social services are currently overwhelmed both by staff and physical limitations, and the growing need by the public for assistance, but urging parents to toss their kid into the anonymous Safe Haven spammer is beyond the pale. To top it off, Norbut Beyer fails to mention that under New Jersey’s fake “adoptee rights” law, the original birth certificates of any person “relinquished” via Safe Haven, is sealed by default, even when the identity of parents and other birth information is known.
So in effect, NJDCF is lying by omission. It is advising parents overwhelmed financially and by illness and lock-downs to consider permanent and anonymous relinquishment of their babies, as a solution to a temporary situation. Covid-19 is not God’s instrument of forced birth and adoption, It should never be an advertisement for Safe Haven use.
While I will never cease opposing Safe Haven laws, I can also say that the anonymous dumping of newborns during a pandemic was never the goal of Safe Haven advocates.
This is unconscionable.
*See the following documents:
Inter-agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN) Safely Surrendered and Abandoned Infants in Los Angeles County, 2002-2009.
Inter-agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN) Safely Surrendered and Abandoned Infants Reports 2009-2018 (individual reports for each year)
Kaplan, Diane S. Who Are the Mothers Who Need Safe Haven Laws: An Empirical Investigation of Mothers Who Kill, Abandon, or Safely Surrender Their Newborns, .29 Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender, and Society, 447 (2014)
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Safe Delivery. Statistics. Also, a MDHHS document that details each Safe Haven case but is no longer available online indicates that in nearly all cases, the babies were not only relinquished at hospitals but born in them.