Safe Haven Laws were enacted in a rush stemming from the widely publicized abandonment and infanticide cases that littered the news a few years ago. Politicians claimed that if these young women had a way of anonymously abandoning their children then perhaps these children would not have died. But is this really true?
In Ohio and elsewhere, it appears to be just as likely – and possibly more so – that laws designed to permit the anonymous, legal abandonment of infants are being used by women who deliver in hospitals and leave without their children. Women already have the option to surrender their babies for adoption so what are we teaching women? That you don’t have to take responsibility for your actions? That its okay just to walk away?
Some of the issue may be that adoption requires women to sign papers relinquishing parental rights usually after a wait of 72 hours but timing for this varies from state to state, if a woman abandons her baby at a safe haven, the relinquishment is immediate. Unfortunately Safe Haven’s immediate relinquishment eliminates many of the safe guards that adoptions surrenders take into account. There is a waiting period for adoption relinquishment to be final giving women time to consider their decision and receive counseling. With Safe Haven laws a woman doesn’t have this waiting period and there is no counseling.
States should be educating women on their options, empowering and encouraging them to make choices not promoting irresponsible behavior and a way to avoid prosecution when abandoning a child. Since the majority of these abandonment’s are taking place in hospitals these laws are not really being utilized by the women who these laws were enacted for, the women who give birth alone in places like public bathrooms scared with no where to turn. Perhaps it’s time to rethink these laws which are no good for women and no good for children who lose their connection to their biological family and lose their medical history.