Today I read yet another story about a mother abandoning her newborn baby. Although the infant had been born alive, when she was found in a garbage can she was unconscious. The abandoned baby died of asphyxiation and hypothermia.
It’s hard for most people to understand how a mother can abandon her newborn baby. After all, for most mothers, there is a natural instinct to love, protect, and nurture her newborn baby. The last thing in the world most mothers would think of would be to abandon their newborn baby.
Unfortunately, some women get pregnant in less than ideal circumstances. They may be in an abusive relationship, or be young and single and afraid. Some women or teenage girls have managed to hide the fact that they are pregnant from their friends and family. For them, the only way out of the shame of an unplanned pregnancy may seem to be to abandon their newborn baby. Other woman may simply feel incapable of caring for a newborn baby, and may see no solution to the problem but to abandon their newborn baby.
Sadly, the practice of abandoning newborn babies is rising. No one really knows how often newborn babies are abandoned, because many cases are undiscovered. According to a government study commissioned by Congress in 1998, the government reported 30,800 babies abandoned in hospitals that year alone, with another 105 abandoned babies found various public places, 33 of which had died. When you combine that with the number of babies that are abandoned, died, and never discovered, the numbers can be quite high.
To help combat this tragic practice, 47 states have established laws that protect women who give up their babies in a legal fashion rather than abandoning them. The laws vary state by state, but there are some common elements in each of the states. For instance, all of the states that have laws to encourage a woman to not to illegally abandon her baby have what are called “safe places” to give up her baby. Some of the common safe places are hospitals, fire or police stations, churches or other places of worship, adoption agencies, etc.
Such places are safe for both the mother and the baby. They are safe for the mother because they do not require the mother to identify herself or give out a lot of personal information. They do take down medical history of the mother if the mother chooses to provide such information. When a mother takes a baby to a safe house, she also does not have to fear any type of charges being filed against her. Safe houses are safe for the baby as well because the baby receives any needed medical care and will also be placed into a good adoptive family where he or she will be nurtured, loved, and provided for.
Laws vary state by state, but in all states, mothers who may be tempted to abandon their babies will be much better off if they contact their local fire station, for example to ask for assistance in finding a home for their baby than if they simply abandon the baby.
One of the biggest difficulties is that many women and teenaged girls who may be prime candidates for abandoning their baby do not know that there is such a thing as safe houses. One of the best things we can do to help reduce the numbers of newborn babies who are abandoned is to get the word out about safe houses, so that women in the midst of despair will know they have an option and have a way to see to it that their baby will be cared for, even if they are unable to provide that care themselves.
This article is intended to do just that; to help raise awareness of safe houses in order to help save the lives of babies who would otherwise be abandoned.