A new look at the baby'safe havens' laws after the SCOTUS hearing

PHOENIX (AP), Nicole Olson has longed for a child all her life and went through an emotional and rigorous adoption process. Olson and her husband received a phone call asking them if they would like to adopt a baby. It was that day. As soon as possible.

A new look at the baby'safe havens' laws after the SCOTUS hearing

The safe haven law allowed the baby to be released. These laws are found in all states and allow parents to leave their baby in a safe place without fear of criminal consequences. In response to media reports about horrific baby abandonments and killings, the laws were passed in the state legislatures in 2000. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infants are most at risk of dying in the first days of their lives.

Olson ran to Target and filled four baby carts. She was back home by dinnertime with her newborn son. The baby Olson, her husband Michael, is now thriving ten years later. Olson says he's funny, athletic, and has adapted well to a difficult time during the pandemic.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett brought up the importance of safe haven laws in the abortion rights debate. Barrett made these comments at a hearing on a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 week gestation -- potentially upending abortion rights established in 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States and was upheld by Planned Parenthood v. Casey's 1992 court ruling.

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Barrett has a history of personal opposition to abortion. She identified a key argument against forcing women into motherhood and suggested safe haven laws. She asked, "Why don’t the safe-haven laws take care if that problem?"

Julie Rikelman, an attorney who argued against the Mississippi law, refuted that argument and said that abortion rights do not only refer to forced motherhood, but also forced pregnancy.

It imposes unique physical requirements and risks on women. In fact, it has an impact on all their lives, their ability care for other children and their ability work. Rikelman, from the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that these risks are especially high in Mississippi.

A traditional adoption is where the family knows the mother. They know her medical history and are often able to maintain a close relationship with her.

After years of trying different routes, Olson, a Phoenix-area highschool teacher, decided to have a sibling when she began working with a private agency. Paul, their 7-year-old son, was eager to have a sibling.

The couple did not know the exact date, race or other pertinent information of their baby when they first met him.

"We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into." Olson stated that it was just one of those situations where it takes a leap of faith. "But that's what I feel about any child, biological or adopted.

Safe haven laws are hard to criticize, but advocates claim that if they can save one baby from death, it is worth the effort.

However, some people question their effectiveness.

President and CEO of The National Center on Adoption and Permanency Adam Pertman said that laws' effectiveness in preventing deaths isn't well studied.

It's flawed because a woman would dump her child in a trashcan isn't going to instead see a sign and decide 'Oh, I'll go the police station instead'," he stated. He also said that a woman in such a situation is "not persuasive enough to make a decision" or wouldn't place her child in the trashcan.

Pertman stated that safe haven laws do not address the needs of women in crisis, such as if they have to harm their child, or provide resources for those in need.

Pertman believes that further restrictions on abortion access or the overturning of Roe v. Wade could lead to more children being left in safe havens, and not adopting the traditional way, with a medical background and detailed health information.

Although there is no national database that tracks the number and type of safe haven babies, the National Safe Haven Alliance (a non-profit that advocates the laws and offers resources to parents in crisis) collects data from all 50 states every year.

According to the CDC and the Organization, slightly more than 4,000 babies were surrendered since 1999 when the first law was implemented.

According to the CDC, most infant homicides occur on the day of birth. These murders are often committed by young, unmarried mothers who have not sought prenatal care. They also tend to be associated with a secret, unplanned pregnancy or with giving birth at home.

The overall infant homicide rate has fallen by 13% since the adoption of safe haven laws in all 50 states. The study compared data between 1989 and 1998 with data from 2008 to 2017. By 2008, every state had adopted safe-haven laws.

According to the study, 67% less babies were killed in their first day of existence. However, most victims of homicide were too old to be surrendered under safe haven laws when they died. Only infants under 72 hours of age in 11 states and Puerto Rico can be surrendered to designated safe havens. However, 19 states will accept infants as young as 1 month. Other states have different age limits.

The CDC suggests that states evaluate the effectiveness of their Safe Haven Laws, and other prevention strategies, to ensure that they are achieving the intended benefit of preventing infant homicides.

The majority of child welfare advocates love safe haven laws. They keep babies safe and alive when their birth parents aren't available to care for them. They are often adopted quickly and never have to be placed in foster care.

However, safe haven placement is not a viable alternative to abortion. It does not consider the economic and health risks that a woman may face during pregnancy. Also, it doesn't account for the risk of childbirth in the country with the highest maternal death rate in developed countries.

Olson is a volunteer for an organization that promotes safe haven laws, and hopes more people will learn about them.

Olson stated, "The greatest message I have been trying to convey is that when you are in a dire situation, someone will be there for you."

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