Last week, I shared a newspaper article out of North Carolina with you about the possibility of North Carolina teaching safe haven laws in the schools to students so that they could be aware that safely abandoning a baby is legal in that state. But a story coming out of Iowa has raised the issue of safe haven laws once again.
Ashley Tritt, an 18 year old from Solon Iowa, was vacationing with her parents, brother, and boyfriend in Florida. She hid her pregnancy from her parents and boyfriend and then gave birth alone, in the bathroom. She was arrested on Monday in Florida after staff at a beach resort found her baby girl dead in a trash can on Saturday morning. She’s charged with first degree, pre-meditated murder.
Safe haven laws allow mothers to legally abandon their children. They can walk into any pre-determined “safe haven” (typically hospitals, police stations, health departments; but it varies in each state) and leave their baby, no questions asked. According to the laws, it has to be a parent leaving the newborn. Only 11 states require that the parent leave medical information.
Safe haven laws in the United States originated in 1999 in Texas , a after public outcry when 13 babies were abandoned in just 10 months. Currently, 45 US states have safe haven laws.
In theory, safe haven laws sound like a good idea and if they stop people from killing babies then they are a good idea, but there are negatives to safe haven laws as well. These children who were abandoned have very little chance at being reunited with their birthparents one day and then there is the whole issue about the lack of medical information since there is none left in most states. Some also feel that if a woman is in such dire straits that she is going to dump her baby that a law may not change that and the specifics of the law may not be known to these mothers.
And finally comes the issue about how many people actually know of safe haven laws. There are few public education programs educating the general public about safe haven laws. Some schools want to educate their students about them but it is yet to happen and many states just do not have the funding to allocate to create programs to educate the general public about the laws.
There are many good articles floating around cyberspace at the moment about safe haven laws. Check them out!
Safe Haven from the Christian Science Monitor
Safe Haven Laws, Hidden Pregnancies, and the Tragedy of Ashley Tritt