For the 14th time since 2002, the state’s “safe haven” law was used recently by a mother who did not want to keep her newborn child. The baby was dropped off at an Iowa hospital on December 21 and, because of the law, the baby’s mother will not face abandonment charges.
Texas was the first state to adopt a “safe haven” law, in 1999. Today, all 50 states have such laws in place. Iowa Department of Human Services spokesman Roger Munns says it’s difficult to rank the states, in terms of which states have had the most success.
“Different states have different rules about what is a safe haven child,” Munns says. “In our state, it’s any infant up to the age of 14 days. Some states allow it up to a month or longer and, as you know, there was a controversy in Nebraska which allowed any child — which is defined by a person up to the age of 18 — to be dropped off.”
Nebraska lawmakers passed a “safe haven” law in 2008, but failed to specify the age of children who could be abandoned and 35 children — none of whom were infants — were abandoned under Nebraska’s “safe haven” law until it was updated in November of 2008. Now, only unwanted infants who are 30 days old or younger may be dropped off at a Nebraska hospital.
In Iowa, an unwanted infant may be dropped off at a hospital or some kind of health care facility.
“There are other states that claim many, many more ‘safe havens’ than we do,” Munns says.
Some other states allow parents to leave an unwanted infant at a police or fire station. Four other states allow the mother to leave her baby at a church — if there are people in the church who can take care of the infant. In a handful of states, emergency medical technicians responding to a 9-1-1 call can accept a “safe haven” baby.
Effective today, January 1, in neighboring Illinois: mothers have up to 30 days to abandon a child under the Illinois “safe haven” law. The previous limit had been seven days and advocates say that gives nervous parents more time to consider the option.