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Post-Roe, Conservatives Promote Way to Give Up Newborns Anonymously - The New York Times

Post-Roe, Conservatives Promote Way to Give Up Newborns Anonymously - The New York Times

Post-Roe, Conservatives Promote Way to Give Up Newborns Anonymously - The New York Times
Aug 06, 2022 2 mins, 12 secs

After Roe, groups are seeking to expand safe haven laws, which allow women to surrender babies with minimal interference.

The Safe Haven Baby Box at a firehouse in Carmel, Ind., looked like a library book drop.

The baby boxes are part of the safe haven movement, which has long been closely tied to anti-abortion activism.

Safe havens offer desperate mothers a way to surrender their newborns anonymously for adoption, and, advocates say, avoid hurting, abandoning or even killing them.

Over the past five years, more than 12 states have passed laws allowing baby boxes or expanding safe haven options in other ways.

If a parent is using a safe haven, “there’s been a crisis and the system has already in some way failed,” said Ryan Hanlon, president of the National Council for Adoption.

The National Safe Haven Alliance estimates that 115 legal surrenders took place in 2021.

But the safe haven movement has become much more prominent, in part because of a boost from a charismatic activist with roots in anti-abortion activism, Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes.

Some who work with safe haven children are concerned about the baby boxes, in particular.

She returned home to Indiana to found a nonprofit, Safe Haven Baby Boxes, and installed her first baby box in 2016.

The advertisements feature a photo of a handsome firefighter cradling a newborn, and the Safe Haven Baby Box emergency hotline number.

In California, unlike in Indiana, safe haven surrenders must be done face-to-face, and parents are given an optional questionnaire on medical history, which often reveals serious problems such as drug use.

Higgs said the biological mother had called the Safe Haven Baby Box hotline after seeing one of the group’s billboards.

For some women seeking help, the first point of contact is the Safe Haven Baby Box emergency hotline.

That hotline, and another maintained by the Safe Haven National Alliance, tell callers where and how they can legally surrender children, along with information about the traditional adoption process.

In Indiana, which has the majority of baby boxes, state law does not specify a timeline for terminating birth parents’ rights after safe haven surrenders, or for adoption.

Kelsey, since her operation began, two women who said they had placed their infants in boxes have tried to reclaim custody of their children.

Birth mothers are also not immune from legal jeopardy, and may not be able to navigate the technicalities of each state’s safe haven law, said Lori Bruce, a medical ethicist at Yale.

And the safe haven movement continues apace

Higgs, the adoptive mother, has stayed in touch with Monica Kelsey of Safe Haven Baby Boxes


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