The late 1990s saw a surge in infant abandonment, many resulting in the baby’s death. In response to these incidents, a movement erupted to allow parents to relinquish custody of unharmed newborn infants without fear of prosecution. At the time, parents risked criminal prosecution for neglect or abandonment.
“Baby Safe Haven” laws or infant abandonment laws were created to remove the potential for prosecution so long as children were given unharmed and given to proper authorities. Since the first safe-haven law was enacted in Texas in 1999, all U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, have passed safe-haven legislation, and every state has reported lives saved through the existence of these laws. Due to less-than-perfect-reporting methods, we are unsure of the exact number but know that in the past decade, these laws have saved well over 3,400 babies.
The National Safe Haven Alliance works with states to promote these laws and increase public awareness that options exist. Together, the Alliance and states work together to save the lives of innocent infants and to protect the lives of their mothers.
Safe Haven laws have been remarkably successful. Unfortunately, babies are still illegally and unsafely abandoned, in part because women do not know that they have another option. It is important that these laws are widely promoted and that women in need are informed that they are not alone.