Anti-abortion advocates promote anonymous ‘newborn deposits’

For them, the surrender of a safe haven is a sign that a woman has fallen through a crack in the existing system. You may be homeless, or suffering from mental illness.

Adoption itself can also be problematic, women may be unaware that they are giving up parental rights, and children leave little information about their origins.

Demonstrators on both sides of the abortion issue took to the streets outside the U.S. Supreme Court after the Supreme Court overruled federal abortion rights Rose Layden/New York Times

When parents use safe havens, “there is a crisis and the system is already failing in some way,” said Ryan Hanlon, president of the National Adoption Council.

boost the movement

Safe haven surrenders are still rare. The National Safe Haven Alliance estimates that 115 legal waivers have occurred in 2021. In recent years, more than 100,000 domestic adoptions and more than 600,000 abortions occur annually. Research shows that the majority of women who have been denied an abortion have no interest in adoption and continue to have children.

But the safe haven movement has become much more prominent, in part due to the influence of Safe Haven Baby Boxes founder Monica Kelsey, a charismatic activist with roots in the anti-abortion movement.

Train station firefighter Ben Krieg, whose baby was left in a safe haven drop-off box in April.

Train station firefighter Ben Krieg, whose baby was left in a safe haven drop-off box in Sullivan/New York Times

As Kelsey and allies lobby around the country, states like Indiana, Iowa and Virginia aim to make safe haven surrender easier, faster and more anonymous. I’m here. Or share medical history.

Some people who work with children in safe havens are particularly concerned about baby boxes.

“Will this infant be handed over without coercion?” asked Myka Orlis, director of the Safe Surrender Clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “Could this be a parent in a bad situation who could benefit from the time and discussion in a warm transition experience to help them make their decisions?”

Kelsey is a former medic and firefighter, and an adoptee who said he was abandoned at birth by a teenage mother who was raped.

She first encountered “safe” babies, a concept that dates back to Medieval Europe, in 2013 when she visited a church in Cape Town, South Africa, on a speaking tour in support of abstinence.

She returned to Indiana to found the nonprofit Safe Haven Baby Boxes and installed her first baby box in 2016.

To use one of Kelsey’s boxes, a parent pulls open a metal drawer to reveal a temperature-controlled hospital bassinet. When the baby is inside and the drawer is closed, it will automatically lock. Parents cannot reopen it. An alarm is triggered and facility staff are allowed access to the bassinet. The box also sends 911 calls. Since 2017, 21 babies have been left in the crate and the average time a child is in the crate is less than her two minutes, Kelsey said.

She has raised money to put up dozens of billboards advertising safe haven options. has been published.

Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes.

Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Sullivan/New York Times

Kelsey said she’s been in touch with legislators across the country who want to bring the box to their communities, and predicted that within five years, all 50 states would have her box.

“We can all agree that babies should be in my crate instead of being put in a trash can to die,” she said.

Due to anonymity, information about parents using safe shelters is limited. But her Orliss at a safe haven clinic in Los Angeles does psychological and developmental evaluations of about 15 such babies each year, often following them into early childhood. His research shows that more than half of children have health or developmental problems, many of which result from inadequate prenatal care. In California, unlike Indiana, safe haven surrender must be done face-to-face, and parents are given an optional medical history questionnaire. This often reveals serious problems such as drug use.


Still, many children are doing well. Tessa Higgs, 37, her manager of marketing in Southern Indiana, has adopted her 3-year-old daughter Nola. Higgs said her birth mother called the Safe Haven Baby Box hotline after seeing her on one of the group’s billboards.

“From day one, she’s been so healthy, happy, thriving, and crossing all developmental milestones,” Higgs said of Nola. “She’s perfect in our eyes.”

legal gray area

For some women seeking help, the first point of contact is the Safe Haven Baby Box emergency hotline.

That hotline and another hotline maintained by the Safe Haven National Alliance tell callers where and how a child can be legally handed over, along with information about the traditional adoption process.

Safe Haven Groups inform callers that anonymous surrender is a last resort and provide information on how to keep a baby, including how to get diapers, borrow money, and temporary childcare. It says that

“When a woman is given a choice, she chooses what works best for her,” Kelsey said. We should all support her decision.”

But Kelsey’s hotline doesn’t talk about legal time limits for reuniting with babies unless the caller asks for it, she said.

In Indiana, home to the majority of baby boxes, state law does not specify a timeline for terminating birth parental rights after abandonment of a safe haven or after adoption. However, Owen County, Indiana Biological family members are free to come forward until a court terminates the parent’s rights, according to Don VanDerMoere, a prosecutor for the state and familiar with state infant abandonment laws. .

Because these abandonments are anonymous, they usually lead to undisclosed adoptions. Birth parents cannot choose their parents, and adoptees are given little or no information about family origin or medical history.

Hanlon of the National Adoption Council has research showing that, in the long run, biological parents are more comfortable giving up their children if the biological and adoptive families maintain the relationship. pointed out.

And in the case of a safe haven, if the mother changes her mind, she must prove to the state that she is in good health.

According to Kelsey, since her surgery began, two women who said they boxed their babies have tried to regain custody of their children. It may take months or years.

Lori Bruce, a medical ethicist at Yale University, says birth mothers aren’t immune to legal hazards and may not understand the technicalities of each state’s safe haven laws. increase.


Many states protect surrendering mothers from criminal prosecution if the baby is healthy and unharmed, but mothers in serious crises such as addiction or domestic abuse, for example, will have their newborn affected in some way. If you do, you may not be protected.

Bruce said the idea that a traumatized postpartum mother could “exactly google the law” is slim.

With Roe’s death, “we know we’re going to see more abandoned babies,” she added. , means that women can now be prosecuted for endangering their children or for failing to follow the letter of the law.”

On Friday, the governor of Indiana signed into law a ban on most abortions, with a few exceptions.

And the safe haven movement continues rapidly.

Higgs, the adoptive mother, is in touch with Monica Kelsey of Safe Haven Baby Boxes. She said, “The day we found out about Roe v Wade, she emailed Monica and was like, ‘Are you ready to get busier?'”

This article originally appeared on new york times.

Anti-abortion advocates promote anonymous ‘newborn deposits’

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