The Department of Human Services reported this week that for the eighth time now, someone’s taken advantage of the “Safe Haven” law that was enacted after Iowans were shocked by cases involving the death of unwanted infants.
DHS spokesman Roger Munns says the law, which took effect in 2001, allows parents to drop off an unwanted newborn and relinquish custody of the baby. While the law says the newborn can be taken to a “health facility,” Munns says for all practical purposes a family in this sort of “desperate, last-minute decision-making” could take the child to any place where there’s someone nearby who could help — a fire station or police station, for example.
The agency doesn’t disclose where in the state a child was born, to help protect the identify of the parents, though Munns can say that this latest “Safe Haven” baby was born in a hospital. The mother knew when she went in that she did not want custody of the child and arranged to give it up under the Safe Haven law when it was born this week.
Still, Munns says while publicizing the program may have saved eight unwanted babies, the agency’s not advising that is the best way to handle such a situation. Munns says the law is intended to be a backstop in cases where families are in crisis. “Once again, it has worked,” Munns says. “However, it is not the way to handle a troublesome pregnancy…I would go first to my family, or to a religious leader — they’re the people who are important to you.”