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By Angela Barbosa
Overwhelming feelings of fear, shame and desperation can lead a pregnant woman to do unthinkable things. What women in Connecticut may not know is that there is a law that offers them more than two choices — terminate or keep. The Safe Haven law gives them a third option. You don’t have to reveal your name, police won’t be called, your baby will receive medical attention, and so will you if necessary. The baby will be adopted and have a chance at a new beginning. Don’t be afraid to use the Safe Haven Law.
The Safe Haven Law was ratified in Connecticut on Oct. 1, 2000, and it does save babies.
“The law allows a distressed parent to anonymously leave an infant, up to 30 days after birth, at hospital emergency rooms without the fear of prosecution,” explained recently retired State Representative Pam Sawyer. “The infants are then given full physicals and healthcare as needed. After giving any treatment necessary, the baby is placed as soon as possible into loving homes.”
Since the effective date, there have been four abandoned babies. One baby was abandoned in Branford in July of 2004. Two babies were abandoned in 2001 in Greenwich and Brookfield, and one in Groton in August of 2006. All four of these babies survived and were given a second chance. Two were adopted, and two live with relatives.
Also since its effective date, 24 Safe Haven babies have been brought to an emergency room under the law. Twenty three newborns were adopted, and one mother reclaimed her child.
There is no age cap for the mother who wants to surrender a baby. All childbearing women can bring the baby to a hospital emergency room.
“There are different variations of this law across the country,” said Sawyer. “In Connecticut, once the baby is surrendered, he or she is put into a pre-adoption home.”
Across the country, there have been cases where young couples have come into an emergency room, said Sawyer. “There have been reported cases in other parts of the country where fathers surrendered the baby. Because Connecticut ensures the parent’s privacy, we do not have a lot of reportable data. One of the imperative pieces of the Safe Haven Law is to have both parents feel safe.”
The law charges the Department of Children and Families (DCF) with the care of the infant. The Safe Haven Law treats the case as a pre-adoption surrender – the 30-day window that parents have after surrendering the baby to come back in case they change their mind.
If a parent or parents change their mind, they should contact DCF immediately and also apply to the court for an attorney. If they don’t follow these steps promptly, the court can terminate their parental rights at the first court hearing. Sometimes, it’s possible for parents to get their baby back, but they must first undergo counseling.
Although Sawyer recently retired from her position as a state representative, her diligence and passion in creating awareness about the law remains strong. “My work has now become a mission in my life to continue spreading word about the Safe Haven law.”
An unwanted pregnancy can be a traumatic experience. But there is a safe choice for you and your baby. For more information about the Safe Haven Law, contact Infoline 211.