A woman surrendering her child using a baby drop-off box. Photo courtesy of Safe Haven Baby Boxes.
Ren Sikes | Opinions Editor
We all remember the churches and firehouses that would accept newborn babies surrendered by their mothers. I personally thought these were fictional scenarios found in movies and TV shows.
However, it is a very real concept and has only been made more real by the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.
This concept of anonymous surrender for newborn babies is protected under safe haven laws in each state. Ohio’s safe haven law was enacted in 2001 in an attempt to “reduce the number of infant deaths due to abandonment in unsafe environments”, according to Laubacher & Co.
This law legally allowed parents to voluntarily surrender a child to a peace officer, hospital employee or emergency medical service worker without expressing the intent to return for the child.
A parent could legally surrender a child to a safe haven within 72 hours of the child’s birth, until 2009 when an amendment was passed to increase the time period to up to 30 days after the child is born.
According to the Department of Job and Family Services in Ohio, the options a parent has to safely surrender their child is to either give the child to a medical worker in a hospital, a medical worker at a fire department or other emergency service organization, or a peace officer at a law enforcement agency.
It is then the responsibility of the medical worker or peace officer to contact the county children services and find the newborn a new home. Thankfully for the child, there are many families who would want to adopt a baby.
These laws have succeeded at finding surrendered newborns the homes they deserve, and taking the stress of raising a child off of those who are not prepared for it.
That being said, with the overturning of Roe, there is bound to be a surplus of surrendered newborn babies that have nowhere to go.
This is maybe why groups across the country have been seeking to expand safe haven laws. The newest edition of the safe haven movement is baby drop boxes. These boxes are meant as a non-contact form of surrendering a child.
Are these baby drop boxes— which look much like a mailbox or a library book return box— really a good idea?
Apparently, baby drop boxes have been around for the past five years. More than 12 states have passed laws that allow baby drop boxes or provide other forms of safe haven options.
While these boxes are not an entirely new phenomena, they are bound to become more prevalent now that abortions are being handled by the states.
According to Safe Haven Baby Boxes website, Ohio currently has six baby box locations available. Ohio is one of seven states that has baby drop box locations.
The way these boxes work is the mother opens the door and places the child inside. Once she shuts the door, it locks and an alarm sounds inside the location, typically a fire department or hospital, and medical personnel is able to open the door on the inside and retrieve the baby.
While this might seem like the perfect solution to the potential increase of abandoned babies, with states that have baby boxes installed having already seen abandonment rates go up just in the past few years— there are still people who see these boxes as less of a solution and more of a cover up for other failures.
Every mother who feels that her only option is to surrender her child is a mother who fell through the cracks and was not afforded other options.
Safe haven laws are necessary of course, because of the abandoned babies that have already been or are in the process of being surrendered, but wouldn’t the issue of unwanted babies be truly solved if pregnant mothers actually got the help they needed?
If birth control and sex education were easily available in every state, if childcare was not as expensive or maybe, just maybe, women had the right to determine what they do with their own bodies, this would not be an issue.
We don’t need more places to leave babies that are already born, and should instead focus on fixing the problem before it starts. Fix things so that we don’t have to worry about babies being abandoned.
Expanding safe haven laws as a solution to a rise in unwanted pregnancies is only covering up the real problem.