Playing the Name Game: Current Safe Haven Baby Box Etymology

Safe Haven Baby Boxes: Devices that resemble a bank or library depository but contain temperature controls and other safety features similar to standard newborn incubators. Boxes are installed in the walls of fire stations, hospitals, or other authorized locations to facilitate easy, de-personalized, and legalized “anonymous abandonment” of newborns with no legal repercussions to the parents.

Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune Set (Photo by Douglas Kirkland/Corbis via Getty Images)

The idea of these boxes is–shall we say–discomforting to large parts of the US population. Though they may not be vocal about it, people just don’t like the idea of sticking a newborn in a box to be shuffled off to Buffalo so to speak.

Not surprisingly, legislators and promoters have caught on. In a move to make their baby-dumping contraption more acceptable or at least less susceptible to public scrutiny and discomfort, alternative names for the devices have been invented to push them through the gate. Evasive names that sound vague, and softer, and tone down the image of the medieval baby wheel in the church wall and the contemporary box in the firehouse wall that resembles a gloomy night depository at a bank.

Especially popular names are “newborn safety devices” and “newborn safety incubators” both of which sound like maternity ward or EMT apparatuses, not patented mechanized dehumanizing instruments of baby and mother erasure. Similar devices in Arizona that pre-date the current SHBB Inc movement, are called baby shelves. A box at a hospital in Pomona California, sponsored by the Garden of Angels Baby Cemetery, predates them all (no matter what SHBB Inc claims). It resembles a Catholic grotto and doesn’t seem to be called anything. In Canada, they are called Hope’s Cradles and Angel Cradles.

These evasive terms, by design, make searching for laws already on the books and especially, bills that are pending difficult to identify. Some states, moreover, give their laws and bills disingenuous titles. For instance, in Ohio, the original SH law is called the Deserted Chid Act, and in Michigan the Safe Delivery of Newborns Law.

Earlier this year I got caught in the name game when S490, the Kansas Safe Haven Baby Box bill, called the device an “infant refuge crib.” making it sound like something from the Wizard of Oz. Auntie Em tying it to a tree to catch a baby as it plummeted through the tornado. I learned about it months later when someone spotted the bill and sent it to me. Fortunately, it did not get a hearing and died at the end of the session in May. It will surely return next year. Any SHBB bill is bad for the adoptee rights movement and for the babies it will entrap, but this one is worse since Kansas has always legally recognized and enforced the right of all Kansas-born adoptees to their Original Birth Certificates and is the model for other states to follow.  Shame on Kansas.! Remember your history!

I was going to be clever and give some suggestions for even more outrageous names for baby boxes, but I just can’t. And I don’t want to give anyone any ideas.

For more baby box-related definitions go to our Definition FAQ. Things sometimes aren’t what you think they are.

Pictures of US baby boxes.

Poke the Bear?

We Poke Back!

Day 14 NAM/NAAM/NanoPoblano

Originally posted:  Stop Safe Haven Baby Boxes, Now! ,  November 14, 2022


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