The Iowa Department of Human Services says the state’s Safe Haven law was used for the 10th time about three weeks ago. D.H.S. spokesman Roger Munns says the baby girl was delivered at an Iowa hospital on April 24th, and then was left with hospital officials by the mother.
Munns says the baby was five weeks premature, but otherwise healthy, and after several days in the hospital to gain strength, was released to the state. Munns says there will be a hearing to terminate the parental rights of the child next month. Munns says this case had one unusual twist that didn’t happen with the other nine children.
Munns says someone called the hospital shortly after the birth and asked about the baby, which led them to believe that someone might want to claim the child. Munns says they had to wait to be sure the baby was not claimed before moving ahead. He says a mother that would have second thoughts about giving up a baby is not unusual.
Munns says there have been cases of "mother’s regret," where they change their mind. Munns says individual circumstances would determine what happened with the child in that case, as the state would want to be sure the child was safe. The safe haven law was created in July of 2001 in the wake of a high-profile case in involving a teen-aged girl in eastern Iowa who delivered her baby at home and then killed the child.
Munns says the law provides an alternative when a mother believes she has no other options. "While this is a happy ending in a crisis situation, it isn’t the preferred way to handle and unwanted pregnancy," Munns says, "obviously you try to get prenatal care, you would consult with people who are important to you, doctors, clergy, family, etcetera, and you would deliver in a safe situation and try to arrange for an adoption."
The 10th baby given up under the law makes the average about one baby per year since the law was introduced, but Munns says that doesn’t tell the whole story. Munns says the law wasn’t used at all for the first two years, and people believe when the law first went into effect that it wouldn’t be used much at all.
The last case of a safe haven baby was in December last year when a home-delivered child was brought to an Iowa hospital emergency room. Most information on the safe haven babies is kept secret, but Munns says all of the safe haven babies have been successfully adopted.