…. when it comes to legalized baby abandonment and the California Legislature. On March 15, the California Senate Judiciary Committee met to vote on SB 116,the repeal of the sunset of SB 1368–the state’s Safe Haven law which permits any old anybody (not only parents) to anonymously “legally abandon” an infant 72-hours old or less at hospitals and police and fire stations with no questions asked. If passed, the repeal makes the law permanent.

While researching the bill to write testimony Bastard Nation: the Adoptee Rights Organization learned that the California Department of Social Services is mandated by SB 1368 and by California’s sunset law itself to prepare and present annual reports to the legislature on the use and effectiveness of the Safe Haven program in that state. The reports were mandated into the law specifically for legislative review when the sunset came up so that (gasp!) the legislature could make an informed and educated vote on whether or not to continue the program.

As it turns out, CDSS couldn’t be bothered with such a difficult task. Although a report was issued for 2002, unlike many other CDSS reports dealing with adoption and child welfare, it is not available online. The open records/adoptee rights group California Open was able to obtain a copy (or rather a partial copy) of the 2002 report via fax only a few hours before it was to give testimony before the Judiciary Committee. CDSS admits freely and without a tinge of embarrassment, that it never wrote, much less issued, the legally required reports for 2003 and 2004 or that its irresponsibility puts the department out of compliance with two California statutes. One can only imagine what else CDSS has forgotten to do.

Did this malfeasance in office bother the Senate Judiciary Committee? Of course not!

Who needs facts and figures that prove this law doesn’t “save” babies, but instead encourages women, some simply in temporary need of assistance and support to keep their babies, and others already in an adoption plan, to act irresponsibiity toward themselves, their child and its future? Forgo pre-and post natal care and counseling, ignore ethical child welfare and adoption practice and simply dump the nameless kid into the hands of the state? Hey, why not? “Nobody ever has to know you had this child”, as the poster says.

Safe Havens treat women like they are stupid and dangerous. Having a tough pregnancy? You’ve got two choices: dump your baby anonymously or kill it. Any woman with 3 brain cells knows there’s something wrong with this scenario. Interestingly, since the enactment of the state’s Safe Haven law in 2001 the number of discarded neonates has remained steady and even ticked up a bit: 2001: 8; 2002: 13, 2003: 11; 2004; 12 with at least one this year (there may be more which have skipped documentation so far). Despite all the good intentions of the state, the miniscule number of disturbed women who kill their newborns continue to do so.

Who needs studies when you’ve got baby fetishizer Debi Faris-Cifelli dry-weeping, passing out pictures of dead babies to the committee, pimping her Garden of the Angels baby cemetery and reading letters from happy adoptive parents who sucked up their little nameless catches like a Hoover in heat? Who needs proof when California Right to Life, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department–and John Stamos (would I kid you?)—are willing to say that dumping a baby is OK by them? We were particularly disappointed to learn that Project Cuddle, once a staunch opponent of Safe Havens, has rolled over and joined the braying pack—perhaps because now 3rd-party Safe Havens are legal and they can line up at the tax trough with the rest of the garbagers. PC: RIP. We really liked you.

Although DCSS hasn’t bothered to tabulate and report the number of discarded newborns alive or dead for several years, or, even put together a detailed report on Safe Havened infants, sunset repeal sponsor Sen. Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cuc-a-Monga) says the numbers speak for themselves.

How zat again? Bastardette has no idea where the good senator got his number of only 1 dead newborn found in 2004, when there were at least 10 (1 each in Stanton, Bakersfield, Chico, W. Sacramento, San Leandro, Oakland, Palo Alto, Avalon, Pacomia and San Francisco and 2 in Los Angeles—documentation upon request.) Perhaps he got his years confused and quoted a similar 2003 statistic discredited 15 months ago by both Bastard Nation and Sacramento Bee columnist, Marjie Lundstrom. Lundstrom, a key Safe Haven advocate, took the state to task back in January 2004 for its inability to keep an accurate account of dead discarded neonates, thus rendering the state unable to prove—or disprove– that the Safe Haven program works. “Statistically, California can count the number of megawatts consumed each day on its electrical grid,” Lundstrom wrote. “We can count the number of housing foreclosures, divorces, gallons of gas sold, and licensed pheasant clubs. Surely we can count our dead babies.” (Sacramento Bee, January 17, 2004).

But that’s the point. Safe Haven pushers in and out the legislature, in their rush to look good and line their pockets with the people’s boodle, don’t care that there is no evidence that the law works, or is even needed. If it saves just one… even if nobody can find just one.

Is this how Bill Gates runs Microsoft?

So Bastard Nation and CalOpen did the only thing reasonable people would do (by normal standards): they moved to put off the sunset for a year or two to give CDSS time to get its act together and issue the reports it was supposed to issue, a suggestion that was met with a glaze-over worthy of a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Politician Sheila (Zelda) Kuehel (D-LaLaLand), whom we usually like, agreed that Safe Haven opponent complaints about the lack of data had merit, but she didn’t want to hold Safe Haven permanency “hostage” though nobody was suggesting anything of the sort. On the plus side, Zelda exhibited concern that the state might be encouraging baby abandonment with Safe Havens and suggested that funds be made available to produce the CDSS reports, begging the question: is government accountability a non-funded mandate?

Responding to Safe Haven opponent objections that the program eviscerates adoptee rights, Senator Dutton, keeping that hefty log in his eye and with a straight face, mumbled that legalized baby abandonment had nothing to do with adoption “issues.”

Bob…. puleeze? What else would you call a law that codifies anonymous relinquishment, rejects best practice child welfare, adoption, and well-woman standards, guts the parental rights of the non-custodial parent (usually the father), and creates a separate class of adopted people who have absolutely no hope of ever accessing their identities, genealogies, and heritage? What else would you call a law openly promoted by the radical anti-adoptee National Council for Adoption as a response to successful open records campaigns in Oregon, Alabama, and New Hampshire that restored the right of identity and birth records to everybody adopted in those states? What else would you call a law that’s opposed by virtually every adoption reform organization in the country and scads of adoption agencies and professionals—including the biggies Holt International and Spence-Chapin?

Because Bastardette is a generous person,she’ll give you a clue. Safe Havens are the poster child for sealed records and anonymous births—the secrets and lies adoption law that NCFA reactionaries and their wingnut member agencies just love. What next should we expect in California? Accouchement sous X where the state will pay pregnant women to go into hospitals anonymously and stick their babies into the adoption spammer? Oh that’s right. They’re already doing that in Truckee. And bragging about it.

In a perfect and just world, we’d be catching a whiff of burning feet about now. CDSS and its friends in the legislature would be finger pointing and harmumping around trying to explain why documenting the use of the highly controversial Safe Haven program hasn’t been done. They’d be explaining why they prefer the weepy arguments of a bored lottery-playing housewife, with no knowledge of adoption or child welfare, over the experience and voice of those who Safe Haven laws effect: adopted persons and their parents–both sets.

What is the California Legislature so afraid of that it can’t hold off a year while CDSS writes its reports? That they might end up being forced to admit that Safe Havens don’t work? That if pushed hard enough they might have to actually confront the real issues of baby dumping: fear, denial, poverty, untreated mental illness, substance abuse—and some times just plain old evil? That they’ve passed a law that they’d never want their daughters, wives, girlfriends, and sisters to use?

What’s wrong with these guys?

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