For nine months, a baby grows in the safety and warmth of his or her mother’s womb, hearing her voice, gently rocking to her movements.
I can’t imagine the bewilderment and pain a baby experiences when, now as a newborn, he or she is left to die in a dumpster, an alley, the woods or a toilet.
This tragedy happens everywhere. A Google search turns up reports from across the Far East, Europe, Africa, Russia, India and other countries—and right here in America, too.
Beginning with Texas in 1999, every US state has enacted a Safe Haven law. As long as the baby is unharmed and given to persons at authorized locations, the parents aren’t prosecuted. Locations and time frames vary by state.
According to Chicago’s Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, more than 2,800 babies have been left at safe havens since 1999. But 1,400 more were discovered abandoned illegally, and almost two-thirds of those babies died.
Now Indiana is hoping to go beyond Safe Haven by allowing parents to anonymously relinquish their babies in specially built boxes—essentially incubators—installed in walls of safe locations. These “baby boxes” have two doors: one so the baby can be placed inside and another on the other side so the baby can be retrieved. A bill passed the Indiana House earlier this week and is on its way to the state Senate.
The idea has been around for centuries, ever since babies were secretly left in hatches in convent walls during medieval times. Just this week a movie called The Drop Box opened in theaters across the US to tell the inspiring story of Lee Jong-rak, a pastor in South Korea who installed such a box at his church after he grew heartsick and weary over finding babies on the streets. Most babies left in Lee’s box face some kind of disability, as does his own son. Lee and his wife, with the help of a small staff, love and raise any who aren’t adopted. As a Los Angeles Times article noted, to Lee “they are all perfect.”
Is a baby box a perfect solution? No, and it’s a controversial subject. The Indiana bill was suggested by a woman who was herself abandoned, though safely in a hospital. If a baby is saved, what can be the downside? But others say the boxes don’t offer any opportunity to counsel the mother, who may need only financial or emotional support to take care of the baby herself. They say existing Safe Haven options should be better publicized instead.
In 2013, USA Today reported the story of an Arizona teen who gave birth in a bathroom and then threw her newborn out a window. She lived steps from a fire house and less than a mile from a hospital, both safe havens. Instead of safely surrendering her baby, who survived, she was charged with attempted murder. At the time of her arrest it wasn’t known whether she knew about Safe Haven, but advocates say probably not.
Even if she had known, would she have made a plan to take her baby to a haven? Maybe. Maybe not. It might be hard to fathom, but it’s possible for a woman, especially a very young woman, to completely deny the fact that she’s pregnant, even to herself. When the baby comes, she’ll probably be alone and overwhelmed with pain, panic and fear. Safe Haven laws are proven to save babies, but it doesn’t have to be either-or. If an anonymous baby box gives that baby one more chance, I support it. As a woman said in the USA Today article, “This is an act of love; it’s not an act of selfishness. You’re making the choice of love, not abandonment.”
One last thought. Adoption is a viable option for many mothers facing an unexpected pregnancy. And it’s not being talked about nearly enough in the pro-life movement and society. We’ve got lots of adoption resources on our website. Visit lifeissues.org and click on Adoption under Issues in the menu bar. (And depending on when you visit, you may see our brand-new website!)
Let’s use all the tools in our arsenal to save each and every baby.