Safe Haven Laws Are Not Working
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.
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.
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.