A premature baby abandoned by a 15-year-old mother last week in a Houston apartment complex parking lot has tragically died.
According to news reports, the teen told her parents that she went outside to retrieve her earbuds from her mom’s car when she saw a baby in a blanket near the fence. She told her mother, a nurse, who then called police and attempted to revive the baby. Sadly, her efforts were futile, and the baby died shortly after paramedics arrived. Investigators believe the baby was about 20 weeks gestation.
As the events unfolded, the teen called her father and admitted that the baby was hers. She said she “panicked” and put the baby outside. Police described the baby as “very, very small.” Authorities will likely not press charges.
Sadly, there are many stories like this one. Last year, a newborn baby girl was found dead in a backpack in the bushes near a hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. In another horrific incident, a newborn baby girl was found in a wooded area along a road in Georgia. She was alive but had been put inside a plastic grocery bag. Thankfully, she survived.
These stories are a grave reminder of the importance of safe haven laws. Each state has its own unique safe haven laws, but essentially all these laws allow parents to anonymously surrender their babies at designated facilities with no legal consequences. The goal is to offer parents in difficult circumstances safe alternatives that prevent infant abandonment. According to the National Safe Haven Alliance, more than 4,630 babies have been saved so far nationwide.
Still, these laws are not a perfect solution, since many parents in desperate situations don’t know they exist. In Texas, where the 15-year-old mother’s child just died, there has been a safe haven law in place since 1999. In fact, Texas was the first state to enact a safe haven law and now all 50 states have them.
Before safe haven laws were enacted, police medic Tim Jaccard recalled numerous harrowing stories of trying to save babies abandoned in horrific ways — including babies who were drowned in toilet bowls or found in plastic bags, dumpsters, and recycle bins. These experiences led him to lobby for safe haven laws. He told People Magazine that he “cried over many babies” in the 1990s before these laws existed.
Stories demonstrating the effectiveness of safe haven laws abound. In 2019, a couple in Illinois was able to hand their baby girl right into the arms of a firefighter before leaving, giving their child a chance at life and knowing she was safe. Just the year before, a mother in Florida went to a fire station with her hours-old baby wrapped in a towel and was able to surrender her baby anonymously, with no questions asked. The baby girl was later placed with an adoptive family.
The challenge now is to spread awareness of the existence of safe haven laws, so that parents in crisis situations without resources know there is a safe option for their child. Abandonment of a child is a criminal offense, but surrendering a child at a safe haven location anonymously is not.
Visit the National Safe Haven Alliance for baby safe haven locations in the United States.
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