An ad campaign will be launched later this month to promote Iowa’s "safe haven" law which allows mothers to drop off their unwanted newborn at a hospital or clinic, without fear of being charged with abandonment. Roger Munns, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services, says since the law was passed in 2001, there has never been any advertising to spread the word about the law.
"This one is a very modest campaign , $50,000. It will only stretch for a couple of weeks, and only on cable shows," Munns says. "But it’s an effort to try to get the word out." Last weekend, an 18-year-old from eastern Iowa who hid her pregnancy was charged with murdering her newborn while vacationing in Florida. This ad campaign was in the works long before that incident.
There has never been state money set aside for ads touting Iowa’s "safe haven" law, but officials in the Department of Human Services found federal funds that are available for it. Despite a lack of publicity, eight babies have been turned over to authorities since 2001. "Also, I think in a couple of those cases people turned in the child to a safe place having not heard about the ‘safe haven’ provisions, but the provisions of that law then were utilized," Munns says.
The "Safe Haven" law was drafted back in 2001 in response to the "Baby Chelsea" case in which a teen from the town of Chelsea killed her newborn. "While people should be aware of this option, we don’t want to make the mistake of letting people think that it’s the only option or even the preferred one," Munns says. "If there is a troubled pregnancy, clearly the thing to do is to consult with people who are important to you, to get proper prenatal care, to deliver safely and to make arrangements for placement of the child — all ahead of time instead of waiting ’til the last frantic, desperate moment and then suddenly remembering there is something you should be doing."