A southwest Iowa woman led a protest last night in eastern Nebraska over that state’s new "safe haven" law. Judy Wheeldon, of Council Bluffs, gathered other demonstrators outside Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha. Wheeldon is calling on Nebraska lawmakers to hold a special session to address what she says are serious flaws in the law, especially the age limit.
Wheeldon’s goal is: "To change the law. To close the gaps. To stop other states from bringing children into the state of Nebraska." Since the law took effect in July, 18 children have been dropped off at Nebraska hospitals. While all states have a safe haven law, Nebraska is the only state that doesn’t specify it’s for newborns. Wheeldon says this law is not only unfair to children, but it’s costing the state money.
Wheeldon says, "These are other state’s children that Nebraska is taking care of. It is an extra expense." The law currently allows any child under the age of 19 to be left at a Nebraska hospital and the parent won’t face abandonment charges. Wheeldon wonders if anyone is taking the emotions of the child into account.
"The kids, how they feel after being left behind. It’s heartbreaking. I don’t know how the parents can sleep after doing that," she says. Earlier this week, a Michigan woman drove 12 hours to Omaha and dumped her 13-year-old son at a hospital with a suitcase and ten dollars. Wheeldon says if something isn’t done soon, more children will be abandoned.
"The next thing I think about is the holidays coming up," she says. "The economy is already bad so I believe if they don’t hold a special session, that this will be an even bigger epidemic during the holidays."
Last week, a Council Bluffs couple dropped off their teenage grandchild at an Omaha hospital but later decided to take the girl back into their home. The law was designed to allow newborns to be left off by overwhelmed new mothers, in an effort to prevent tragic deaths, but the wording of the law was changed to allow any child to be abandoned, with virtually no questions asked.