Lansing, MI -- January 2001 -- State officials are racing to let people know about a new law that allows parents to abandon their newbornsin certain places without fear of prosecution.
"Until individuals become aware of the new act, it probably won't have any effect," pro-life Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus said Monday in a news conference at a Lansing hospital. "Our job is to get across the idea that young moms in crisis now know there is a safe place to take their baby."
This month, Michigan joined at least a dozen other states in enacting a "safe haven" law. The law allows parents to abandon infants whoare 72 hours old or less at hospitals, police stations or firestations. Before the law passed, abandoning an infant was a 10-year felony.
The state is spending $600,000 on the program, including $13,575 so far, to print and distribute 200,000 brochures. The brochures have been sent to police and health workers as well as schools. The brochures, which say, "Please don't abandon your baby!" in bright yellow letters, explain the law and include the number of a toll-free, 24-hour crisis line. (The crisis line for the "Safe Delivery" program is 1-866-733-7733.)
The brochures tell parents that they may be asked to give family medical information but don't have to answer any questions when they leave a newborn. The infant will be placed for adoption,although the parent can petition to regain custody within 28 days.
The state Family Independence Agency is printing and distributing the brochures. FIA Director Doug Howard said parents who want to abandon their newborns are motivated by "denial,shame, fear, panic, and just a desire to get through the experience."
"The numbers may not be large, but even one is too many," Howard said. Officials said Monday that they limited the law to infants 72 hours old or less for several reasons, including the health of the newborn and the ability to determine the baby's age and whether the baby had been harmed in any way. Immunity doesn't apply if the infant has been abused.
State Sen. Shirley Johnson, who sponsored the bill, said there were seven or eight cases of infant abandonment in Michigan last year. By some estimates, there are 57 babies a day abandoned in theUnited States, Johnson said.
"This is a good thing we've done, and hopefully we've not justsaved one life, we've saved two," said Johnson, R-Royal Oak."There's a young woman involved here. Remember that."
According to Right to Life of Michigan: "The increasing and disturbing trend of young mothers abandoning their newborn babies in any number of dangerous places has prompted state legislators to introduce legislation to prevent the tragic death of newborns."
Source: Associated Press; January 8, 2000. Provided by: The Pro-Life Infonet, a daily compilation of pro-life news and information. To subscribe, send the message "subscribe" to: infonet- email@example.com. Infonet is sponsored by Women and Children First (http://www.prolifeinfo.org/wcf). For more pro-life info visit http://www.prolifeinfo.org and for questions or additional information email firstname.lastname@example.org