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Safe Haven Laws Are Not Working

November 21, 2008

Newborn found at local fire company

PLYMOUTH TWP., Pa. – September 7, 2008 (WPVI) — Plymouth Police responded to the fire company and located a newborn baby.

On Sept. 7, 2008 at approx. 3:05 a.m., Montgomery County Police Radio received a call from an anonymous female stating that a baby was left at the flagpole in front of the Plymouth Fire Company on Colwell Lane.

Plymouth Police responded to the fire company and located a newborn baby boy wrapped in a shirt. The white, male, infant was transported to Montgomery Hospital where it was determined that the infant was probably no more than one hour old.

Any information regarding the identity of the Baby Doe, or either parent [yeah right, like if the father showed up he would not be forced to reveal the mother’s name], please contact the Plymouth Twp. Police Dept. Detective Division at 610-279-1900.

First, the child was not “found,” he was located after a call was received telling them his location. The mother, assuming the anonymous female caller is the mother, called and informed fire station personnel of the baby’s whereabouts. It sounds as if she watched the baby from a distance until he was retrieved.

In general, under a Safe Haven law, an infant up to 72 hours old can be dropped off at churches, hospitals and fire stations, with no questions asked. Some states allow up to twenty-eight days, other states limit the drop off site to hospitals only, and some states define who can actually drop the child off. In cases of mothers only (Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, and Tennessee), the state may claim it is to assure that the mother’s baby was not stolen. This is a benevolent precaution; however, there are other possible repercussions when the mother must be the one to drop off the infant. The obvious being, they will see who the mother is, if not, how would they know it is not the mother?

The above case was in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania only allows hospitals to be Safe Havens. Since the mother did not drop her baby off at a hospital she will now be treated as a criminal, thus the reason the Plymouth Twp. Police Dept. Detective Division is requesting information regarding the identity of the Baby Doe. After all, we cannot have that mother getting off scot-free. She must be shamed properly for getting herself knocked up and then committing the atrocious crime of not wanting the baby.

Moreover, I so do not want to hear how the hospital needs the mother’s medical history, funny how men are never required to provide their medical history for an unwanted infant. In addition, there are no physical signs what so ever to indicate that a man is the father of a recently dropped off infant, –no protruding belly, no postpartum vagina, and no all point bulletins sent out to hospitals asking to keep an eye out for a man seeking medical care with a pregnant-ing penis. No man is subjected to DNA testing taken by hospital personnel (ordered by the police) to determined if he recently fathered a baby and left it at the fire station’s flagpole. Criminalising and shaming the father for abandoning a newborn, if in fact that is possible, simply does not set the situation right the way it does when the mother is forced to walk the hall of shame.

There seems to be this need to paint the mother who does not want her child as an insensitive monster. Even if she never gives her name, she will risk seeing the people who she dealt with around town. Not everyone can afford to leave town, and, the fact that she is dropping her baby off is more than likely a possible indicator of her living arrangements, such as having a domineering parent (or parents) who she is afraid of revealing a pregnancy to, or an abusive partner. Everyone knows that a secret is no longer a secret or guaranteed to remain a secret after more than the bearer of the secret learns of the secret. So-called medical professionalism provides little protection. The potential to engage in juicy gossip tends to derail professionalism. That, and the opportunity to feel superiority to the mother, “I would never give up my child like that!” I had nurses say exactly that to me when I sheltered a woman who gave her child up for adoption.

The problem with limiting the drop off sites to hospitals only is, hospitals are well lighted. Usually there are security guards posted at the front and emergency entrances, along with outside cameras, including cameras in the parking lot. The last two hospitals I worked for had roving outside security guards in addition to the inside guards. If a mother wishes to remain anonymous, a hospital would be a very intimidating place; it would not feel safe for her.

Perhaps I can get my point across with a virtual example. If you wanted (needed) to post on the Internet and remain anonymous, would you post a photograph of yourself? Some could argue, it is just a photograph without a name and address attached, you are still anonymous. Right? If you think this, honestly think this, imagine posting a photograph of yourself on the Internet (if you are trying to remain anonymous) and think about how you would feel if people talked about your photograph. I do not mean talk about it as in your appearance, but discussed and passed it along. Would you still feel safe? Would you still feel that there is no way that you would ever be identified. I’m not good with placing faces as in recognising people I have not personally met, much less people in disguises such as someone who was on America’s Most Wanted and then standing next to me in Target, but there are people who are really good at it. I suspect, the police host a bastion with this ability.

If a mother is already in a critical enough situation that she chooses to leave her baby somewhere, can we safely assume she knows the exact specification for each state’s Safe Haven law? What if it differs from county to county? Before I read up on this topic, I assumed hospitals, police and fire stations, and churches were all Safe Havens. Goodness knows what a confused and possibly abused pregnant mother knows during and after such a trying period.

10 Comments
  1. Professor Zero permalink
    November 21, 2008 9:52 pm

    Great post!!!

  2. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink
    November 21, 2008 10:02 pm

    PZ, what’s up? I know I don’t comment over at your place that often, but I think I may start taking it personal if none of my comments never show up. I believe I am up to three in the last three months.

    And the word verification right now is whine, no joke!

  3. Professor Zero permalink
    November 22, 2008 5:26 am

    OK, I went into the spam queue, which I never do, and found one from Nov. 18 … so now I’m looking for more!!! I wonder how you got into that spam queue…

  4. Professor Zero permalink
    November 22, 2008 5:30 am

    Askimet had already killed the others. I’m sorry … I don’t know how that happened!

  5. CountryDew permalink
    November 22, 2008 12:45 pm

    Excellent post. I fear the plight of women will only worsen as the economy collapses. There is no safety net and the men in suits don’t care. You made some really great points.

  6. Ashley permalink
    November 22, 2008 6:14 pm

    I have actually had your internet photo analogy happen to me. Freshman year of college, friends duct taped me to the wall (I was VERY willing cuz it as hilarious). We took a picture, I posted it on my livejournal. Then-boyfriend’s brother submitted it, anonymously to a website o funny pictures, and it’s made the rounds since. In the past 6 years I’ve gained 50 pounds, grew out my hair, and, well, aged 6 years. Yet every few months I get a message from some random person going “hey, I found this odd picture, is it you?” There are no identifying marks on the image (no name, date, location), and it’s not that clear of a picture of my face. Yet I’ve had no fewer than 10 people in the past 6 years find this picture and ask me about it. Even people who don’t know me very well, or haven’t seen me in 7+ years.

    Luckily I think it’s a flattering and hilarious picture of me and so I don’t mind, but if it was of a more compromised position, it would be devastating. I suspect this pic will follow me around for the next 10 years or so, at least until duct taping people to the wall becomes less hilarious. And really, I don’t think that’s gonna happen. Heck, I”m currently the top google image search for ‘duct tape to wall’

  7. MargaretJamison permalink
    November 23, 2008 11:43 am

    This right here is what they ought to be teaching kids in sex education classes. This is what they *would* be teaching kids if they gave a damn about girls and women, what the safe haven laws are, what the rape laws are, abortion laws, contraception laws, father’s rights laws, etc. Maybe if girls had it all laid out for them, the way everything sexual and reproductive is stacked against them for boys’ and men’s benefit, they might stop once and for all begging men to be nice to girls and women on the sexual and reproductive fronts and actually start making the kinds of demands that might make a real difference. I almost dare not even dream that they might once and for all stop begging and demanding things of men altogether and simply withdraw their energies from those who mean us no good.

  8. Anna Belle permalink
    November 25, 2008 3:40 am

    First of all, spot on article Miz Kitty. You have them dead to rights on this. I think issues of biology are necessarily going to have be a whole plank in any resurgent feminist movement.

    That said, now there’s another good idea, Margaret! Someone should write that up as a lesson plan and offer it to a feminist education professor. If we could work that down into high schools (actually very like Bill Ayers has done with his agenda), we could begin to build that foundation. Heck, having it at the collegiate level would help. Have you ever thought of putting together a lesson plan? Do you have experience in law?

  9. Anna Belle permalink
    November 25, 2008 3:40 am

    First of all, spot on article Miz Kitty. You have them dead to rights on this. I think issues of biology are necessarily going to have be a whole plank in any resurgent feminist movement.

    That said, now there’s another good idea, Margaret! Someone should write that up as a lesson plan and offer it to a feminist education professor. If we could work that down into high schools (actually very like Bill Ayers has done with his agenda), we could begin to build that foundation. Heck, having it at the collegiate level would help. Have you ever thought of putting together a lesson plan? Do you have experience in law?

  10. MargaretJamison permalink
    November 26, 2008 1:08 pm

    I have no law experience at all, and the only lawyers I know are corporate leeches, not experts on sexual and reproductive law.

    I’d love it if someone with law experience and access to LexisNexis could draft up a curriculum. That would really be great. I think it would have to be high school, at the latest. By the time girls get to college too many of them have been weeded out, educationally and through struggling single motherhood, to get the message across in a broad way. I’d like for them to teach this stuff in fourth-grade civics classes, frankly, but there I go wishing on stars again.

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