A few months ago a stillborn fetus was found in a bathroom at Brighton High School. According to the press, no mother has been identified or located. The story vanished quickly from the papers, but last week the case hit the news again when a full-blown BSH-branded funeral was held for the fetus, now named “Frances Hope.”
Not surprisingly, “Baby Safe Haven” was all over it. Mike and Jean Morrisey, acting on a request from the Catholic Cemetery Association of the Diocese of Boston, took custody of the corpse, and staged a BSH Be In at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Watertown, complete with extensive media coverage. Every “abandoned baby”– even if its stillborn–is an awesome opportunity for evangelization.
The media played it’s usual role of propagandist, without questioning why a stillborn found floating in a toilet–as disturbing as that can be–is equated with an abandoned newborn dead by murder or neglect. The only note of reality was found in two articles in the Boston Globe: the run-up “A name, a grave for abandoned female fetus” (August 31), followed the next day with a short filing, “A solemn memorial service for fetus abandoned at Brighton High.” This second story was expanded in the September 2 edition now headed “Mourners say goodbye to ‘Baby Frances Hope.’” It would be interesting to know the evolution of the headline.
Mike Morrisey, relatively quiet lately, got lots of press face on this. Give the man credit. He manipulates the Boston media like Karl Rove runs the Washington press corps. Joining the Morriseys in this press fest was Kevin Mojave, the unfortunate janitor who discovered the fetus, and has been recruited into the Baby Safe Haven media team. Bastardette expects to see more of this photogenic guy at future events. He seems genuine, decent, and unaware that he’s just another pipe in the Mighty BSH Wurlitzer.
In my opinion, there is nothing inherently wrong in holding a private service for stillborns if that‘s what the parents or legal custodians want. But there is something terribly wrong with holding publicized public funerals to pimp a political agenda–especially one that wants pregnant women to act irresponsibly and dangerously towards themselves and their potential children–one that encourages a system, as BSH does, of secret pregnancy and secret child surrender and opposes best practice social welfare and healthy family resolutions.
But stillborns floating in toilets, garbage cans, water sewage plants, and occasionally miscarded in hospital laundries play an important role in Baby Moses/Safe Haven promotion. Discarded fetuses are played up as victims of “desperate mothers” hiding pregnancies from family and friends. Baby and mother could be saved–or at least helped– if only Mom had known about Baby Moses/Safe Haven laws and the BSH hotline (a blatant pitch for money.) Incredibly, every pregnant girl or woman who delivers a premature dead fetus in public space is a secret fetus carrier in need of BSH services.
The mother of this specific fetus has never been located or identified. Nobody knows anything about her. Was she is a teenager or adult? A student, a school employee or somebody off the street? Did she receive prenatal care? Did she run away because she wanted to keep her pregnancy a secret or because she didn’t know what to do? Was she traumatized or just glad to get rid of it? Did she intend to keep the baby, put it up for adoption, or undecided? Did she even know she was pergnant? Maybe she was familiar with the Baby Safe Haven Rap and intended to use the program when the time came. Maybe she actually used the BSH hotline. Or intended to. Perhaps its none of these. Or a mixture.
We don’t know.
And neither do the Morriseys.
But that doesn’t stop them from turning speculation into “fact.”
On September 2 and 3, the following 3-way discussion about the funeral appeared on the newsgroup alt.adoption after a poster accused the Morriseys of fraudulent promotion of their law The only change I’ve made in this transcript is the addition of the names of posters to keep things straight.
The use of a stillborn child to promote the use of Safe Havens is fraudulent and irresponsible.
The Morriseys wrote:
How little you know of what reality is.
Indeed, Baby Frances Hope did not leave this world as she entered it – alone and abandoned.
The baby was stillborn, not abandoned. That’s reality.
The Morriseys wrote:
The MA Baby Safe Haven law is not just the very few times that a baby is safely surrendered at an approved safe haven location. It’s also our 24/7 hotline that counsels many, many young people to avert these crisis by giving proper the counseling, and 10 times as many women begin adoption or parenting plans through this.
You have no idea if the mother of this stillborn fetus availed herself to the hotline services or not. You have absolutely no idea what her circumstances were or the events leading up to the stillbirth. None of this matters to you, reality doesn’t matter to you, because you remain
The Morriseys wrote:
In this case the young woman could have delivered at a nearby hospital. No investigation, no custodians, students or faculty put through emotional trauma from finding her. No police investigation, Medical Examiners work and taxpayer’s paying for. The burial would have been very private if the end result was a stillborn baby. The Mom would also have gotten proper counseling if this was the tragic result — in anonymity if she requested. So, where is any of this improper??
It’s all grist for your mill, another tragedy you can exploit. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, to those whose the only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
Boston Herald, August 31, 2006: It’s a proper burial, but untimely at the same time, said Mike Morrisey, who along with his wife, Jean Morrisey, championed the Baby Safe Haven law.
“Our whole point of view is this doesn’t have to happen,” said Morrisey, who added that St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is across the street from the school.
Morrisey said the mother has not been identified.
The Baby Safe Haven law, passed in 2004, allows moms to drop off a newborn who is less than 7 days old at a staffed fire station, police station or hospital without being charged with abandonment. The Department of Social Services then takes custody.
Morrisey said that in the four years prior to the law, 13 babies were abandoned and six died. Since the law passed, one newborn has been abandoned. He was found Easter Sunday, just hours after he was dumped in a Westfield alley. DSS has custody of the baby.
“It works,” Morrisey said.
He said the biggest problem is getting the word out to moms-to-be who need to hear it the most – those who are very young, non-English speakers and drug- and alcohol-addicted.
Boston Herald, September 2, 2006: (and other Herald-operated local papers): Michael Morrisey, who guided the Baby Safe Haven law into fruition and befriended Kevin Mojave in his desire to celebrate a life and give it proper closure, said using “Hope” as part of the name was a tribute to all the “Frances Hopes who are abandoned across the country each year.”
“I really don’t think I ever had a choice,” Kevin Mojave said after the service. “God led me into that bathroom for a reason. And from the moment I laid eyes on that child, I knew she was going to be with me for the rest of my life.”
Last night, well after Frances Hope’s white coffin had been nestled under the grass, Kevin Mojave’s thoughts turned to the mother who still remains a mystery.
“At least now she knows she has a place to go,” he said, “and that her baby has a name. It probably wasn’t the one she wanted, but I hope she likes it just the same.
“Maybe one day she’ll find her way to that grave,” Kevin Mojave said. “I hope and pray she does. Maybe it will give her some peace. I know what I saw in the bathroom that day, but I can never imagine what she went through. Only God knows that.”
Boston Globe, September 2, 2006: Baby Safe Haven New England, a nonprofit group that took custody of Frances, let Mojave name her. He chose “Frances” in memory of his late mother. Social service agencies typically give the last name “Hope” in cases when the identity of an unborn baby is unknown.
Several people yesterday used the burial to bring attention to the state’s Baby Safe Haven law, which took effect in October 2004 and allows mothers to drop off newborns at a hospital or a police or fire station. The mothers are not charged with abandonment, and the state takes custody of the baby.
“We can only imagine the terrors and the fears that enabled anyone to do what was done to this child,” said the Rev. Rodney J. Copp , pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Waltham. “It is an important statement that we value this life. Although we never knew this child alive, although we had no ability to interact with her, we recognize that her life, like our own, is part of God’s life of innocence.”
Allston-Brighton TAB, September 8, 2006: Michael Morrisey who, along with his wife Jean, has lobbied for “safe haven” laws, said that educating mothers about their ability to leave a newborn in a safe location without fear of prosecution can help prevent newborn abandonment.
“The three tough groups to get to are the very young, the substance dependent and non-English speakers,” said Morrisey.
The Baby Safe Haven Foundation has worked over the years to educate people about the law. From commercials on MTV to fliers at Avril Lavigne concerts, the foundation will take any opportunity to get the word out.
“We get a lot of e-mails from high school papers doing articles on it,” said Morrisey. “College and high school papers are big.”
Diocese of Boston Pilot, September 8, 2006: Only days before the burial the Catholic Cemetery Association of the Archdiocese of Boston was contacted by Michael Morrisey, head of BabySafe Haven New England, who had taken custody of Frances Hope and was seeking a proper burial place for her…
Morrisey, who championed the Baby Safe Haven Law in Massachusetts, said that he and his wife, Jean, want to let mothers know they have optionswhen they cannot care for their newborns.
“We’re fighting to keep abandonment’s from happening,” he said.
Mojave added that he wished the mother of the child, who has never been identified, had known more about the Safe Haven Law in Massachusetts. The law, which became effective on Oct. 29, 2004, allows parents to legally surrender newborn infants seven days old or younger at a hospital, police station or manned fire station without facing criminal prosecution. The Department of Social Services then takes custody. All but four states have safe haven laws allowing mothers to relinquish custody of their babies at a designated public place up to anywhere from 72 hours to 90 days after birth.
Morrisey said that since the law was passed in 2004, only one newborn has been abandoned. In the four years before that, 13 babies were abandoned and six died.
The Morriseys now run the non-profit group Baby Safe Haven New England.. They have also arranged two funerals for abandoned children, one for Francis Hope and another for Rebecca Mary five years ago.
I only have online editions of these articles so I can’t give an idea of how many column inches on the fetal funeral were dedicated to BSH, but I’d say approximately half.
A note on links: The Massachusetts Baby Safe Have Yes page seems to have gone missing, and I can’t find a link anywhere that works for it. If someone knows where it’s gone, I’ll be glad to fix it.