Babies Need Never Be Abandoned

by Diane Dimond on September 12, 2011

Store Surveillance of Mother With Baby in Bag

It has happened again and it breaks my heart.

A young mother in Hendersonville, North Carolina walked into a grocery store recently clutching her boyfriend’s hand on her left and a big heavy looking shoulder bag on her right – a bag that nearly scraped the ground as she walked.

The teenager headed straight for the store’s ladies’ room and stepped inside. When she re-appeared on the grocery’s surveillance video exactly four minutes later she had exchanged her red sun dress for a pair of slacks and a blouse. Her bag was casually slung over her shoulder looking a whole lot less heavy.

Within hours a store employee cleaning the restroom found a dead newborn baby in one of the stall’s trash cans. The 9-11 call to police was painful to listen to as another worker gasped between sobs and begged for help for the dead baby.

Whoever abandoned the little girl had just committed a felony.

There is a Safe Place For Every Baby

An innocent life lost and the additional tragedy was that within a mile and a half of that store were three Safe-Haven locations where a mother in peril could turn to for help with her baby – no questions asked.

Police in Hendersonville report they located the teen mother. Presumably because she is underage specifics on the case have been sparse. It has been reported that the baby might have already been dead when placed in that trash can. But the law is not always sympathetic and criminal charges could still be filed. The autopsy report will be the most important piece of evidence.

As tragic as this case sounds it is not an isolated one. I remember other incredibly similar stories that ended with jail time for the young parents involved: Melissa Drexler, the so-called “Prom Mom,” in Forked River, New Jersey who gave birth in the public bathroom, put the newborn in the trash and returned to the dance as if nothing had happened; Amy Grossberg and her boyfriend Brian Peterson who rented a hotel room in Newark, Delaware for the birth of their unnamed baby boy then put him in a nearby dumpster. They claimed a still-birth but the autopsy showed the infant died from shaken baby syndrome. And in February of this year Jessica Blackham went to the circus in Greenville, North Carolina and delivered a baby boy in the arena restroom. Miraculously the baby was found an hour later and survived. Blackham, the mother of a 5 year old who says she has no memory of her last birth, faces charges of felony child abuse.

Police Stations,Hospitals, Fire Stations - All Safe Havens

So many young people don’t know about the Safe-Haven laws and yet they are in effect in all 50 states. Generally speaking they allow a parent to turn over an infant under 30 days old to a hospital, firehouse, police station or rescue squad with absolutely no recriminations or questions – just a guarantee that the baby will be well cared for and placed for adoption by loving parents.

The perfect location to hang posters highlighting Safe Havens for teen moms would be in the girl’s restrooms at junior and high school but we all know that the bureaucracy attached to that makes it unlikely to happen.

A pen-pal of mine, Stacy Sussman, who works in a law office in Los Angeles has a great real-world suggestion for those who care enough to help educate young people. She wrote, “I was thinking places like 7-Eleven and Taco Bell – places such as those where students hang out before, during and after school.”

Let's Tell More Young Moms - For Her Sake

I hereby toss out that challenge to every corporation that caters to teenagers. How about Safe Haven posters in the dressing rooms of the GAP, Sears, J.C. Penney, Old Navy and Target? Or information about the closest neighborhood Safe Haven locations in the restrooms of every Burger King, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut or Pinkberry Yogurt?  Why shouldn’t the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and your local gym get involved?

My smart friend Stacy also suggests school newspaper editors agitate to post information about Safe Haven locations somewhere in the school newspaper, even if it’s just a reprint of the local Safe Haven law. Stacy also suggests the phrase NO QUESTIONS ASKED be printed in very big letters next to a picture of a smiling firefighter holding a baby with the caption, “You’ll be okay.”

Let's Educate More Young Moms - For His Sake

I can’t think of a more worthwhile and simple program to help save the lives of both newborn babies and their teen-aged parents. And think of all the adoptive parents waiting anxiously for a baby who could finally realize their dream of having a family.

The problem of teenagers getting pregnant isn’t going to go away and neither are the laws that mandate criminal charges be filed against anyone who puts a newborn in danger or fails to get help for an infant. We have to get over the idea that its taboo to speak directly to teenagers – both girls and boys – about what to do when a baby is on the way.

Teen moms will continue to try to hide their pregnancies from parents they can’t communicate with in the shortsighted hope that everything will be okay. We grown-ups know, of course, that never works.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Olivia Cribbs September 12, 2011 at 11:41 am

What a great idea. I’m going to talk to our school about this

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Diane Dimond September 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Facebook Friend Susan Jane Murray writes:

“And there are so MANY loving folks out there who would so dearly love to have a baby for their own. Let’s pray the moms realize this.”

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CLS September 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Susan Jane, I am deeply opposed to adoption, for very personal reasons. You’re asking a female of child-bearing age to go through a nine-month pregnancy, the agony of childbirth, and then hand off the baby to strangers who could do anything to that child, which happens more than you realize. Let’s better educate teens so that they make better choices.

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Diane Dimond September 12, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Facebook Friend Lawrence Olmstead writes:

” Educating them is a last resort, but if many of these young men and women were parented better, they might not be in this situation. It seems as if younger and younger children are becoming sexually active with no sense of reality and consequence.”

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Diane Dimond September 12, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Facebook Friend Barbara Silberfeld August-Spitzer writes:

“Why can’t High Schools and Junior High Schools tell students where Safe Haven Locations are?”

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Diane Dimond September 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Barbara- Because school administrators worry that someone – even ONE parent – might complain. So they just don’t do it. ~ DD

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CLS September 12, 2011 at 2:55 pm

It would be wiser to provide better sex education and make birth control more accessible. This does not promote promiscuity. Certain european countries are proof of that. However, it would reduce the numbers teen pregnancies leading up to the tragedies you have just described.

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jeff hughes September 12, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I had no idea that there were safe havens, so how would a young mother know? Thanks for bringing this up!!

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Dawn Geras September 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I am president of the Illinois program. We actually WROTE the IL law around my dining room table & passed it in 2001. We also started the National Safe Haven Alliance to help other states. If anyone cares about making a life or death difference for the youngest, most vulnerable, the newborn baby, let me know. Help is desperately needed. While almost 2,000 babies have been ‘saved’ under safe haven laws, thousand more have not, and too many still end up dead almost every day.

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Diane Dimond September 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Dawn –
Bless you for your efforts. I hear the passion in your message to me. I can only hope my challenge to the corporate world doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Keep up the good works! ~ DD

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Diane Dimond September 15, 2011 at 9:23 am

DD Web Site Reader Mike Morrisey writes:

“Hi Diane. I was on the Nancy Grace show as your expert on Baby Safe Haven laws. In New England we do things very differently when it comes to letting young people know about the laws, hotlines and info web sites. We only use young people to talk to their peers on the radio stations, web sites, TV and newspapers. Our spokesperson is a top notch regional singer/actress and has been working with us for four years. She started when she was 19. We haven’t had a deadly newborn abandonment in four years and ten months. Renee Marou doesn’t just talk about Baby Safe Havens though. Her job is to first make friends with the DJ, news anchor, or reporter/interviewer then extend that friendship to their readers, viewers and listeners. Through that friendship they then let her new friends know about the Baby Safe Haven laws, hotlines and web sites. It has worked so much better then an older authority figure lecturing to young people. When a woman who just arrived from El Salvador threw her newborn out the window after she gave birth, luckily the baby survived and was found by neighbors, our spokesperson then went to work and hit almost every media outlet in the region. Here’s her interview with the number one rated station with young women in Boston, the next day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkXsvIIBYlg

Mike Morrisey

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Diane Dimond September 15, 2011 at 9:23 am

Dear Mike, thanks a million for this information!!
(And you were a GREAT guest when I guest hosted for Nancy Grace). Kids talking directly to kids is always more effective than adults trying to get thrrough to them. I’m hoping some corporations will get behind this info campaign…and your idea for a n official spokesperson is a wonderful idea! Let’s stay in touch! DD

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parkay September 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm

You might be naive, Diane, but the safe haven laws which have been enacted in every state for years now have allowed for the discreet legalized abandonment of unharmed newborns at hospitals, clinics, police and fire stations. Despite this, some mothers knew this well and were still determined to murder or kill by abandonment their newborns. Some mothers probably thought if they abandoned their newborn to die of exposure, cold, or hunger, they wouldn’t be caught or wouldn’t be charged with murder.
Safe haven laws just will not work to save newborns from murder or illegal abandonment in all cases, that has been proven in past years.
If we don’t want to keep finding dead and dying newborns in our garbage cans and alleys, we must prosecute those who abandon newborns with very harsh penalties for murder or attempted murder, and publicize their convictions and sentences well.

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Diane Dimond September 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Parkay: I don’t know of any law that is 100% effective….but I believe Safe Haven Laws are a positive step to saving newborn’s lives. If an infant is found dead “In our garage cans and alleys” of course we must prosecute. ~DD

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Diane Dimond September 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Huffington Post Reader GHarry writes:

“Good cause, and people also can help by demanding that their local school boards give up so-called “abstinenc­e education” in favor of real sex education. Studies show abstinence education has resulted in a sharp rise in the number of unplanned pregnancie­s and in sexually transmitte­d diseases among teens subjected to that form of teaching, which is the health care equivalent of Creationis­m. Concerned citizens also should demand that women’s health clinics be allowed to keep operating in their states, contrary to the many religion-b­ased efforts to drive them out of business.”

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Dr. Kathy Seifert December 7, 2011 at 9:38 pm

What a great article and discussion. I hope many heed your call. The other side of the story are the youth that do not have sufficient coping skills to figure out what to do in a crisis. They panic, rather than think clearly. This is usually youth that were abused and neglected earlier in their childhoods. These youth need adult guidance throughout their adolescence. If everyone mentored an at risk youth and helped them problem solve, this would also help the situation, also.
Thanks for your great work.

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kittycat January 13, 2012 at 12:15 am

Interesting how in some states, if you are nine months pregnant and have an abortion, that’s just “peachy,” yet if your baby is born at seven months and you kill it you can get the electric chair. Hypocrisy much?

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