From John Patrick Walsh, Pro-Life Chairman …
While home for Easter, my mother relayed a heartbreaking local news story to me. To make a long tragedy short, a local teen mother smothered her newborn infant son before obtaining the father’s help in disposing of the body in a nearby housing community dumpster. The young woman had hid the pregnancy from her parents and only came to the attention of local authorities after sharing pictures of the child, and alluding to her actions, through text messages with a friend who alerted police. (To date the body has not been found and police have called off the search, the parents are being held without bail on felony charges.)
My mother was shocked that the young parents would not have sought help in caring for (or terminating) the child during her pregnancy. She then looked at me with despair and asked why they couldn’t have given the child up for adoption or dropped it off at a hospital/police/fire station? Didn’t they know about the Safe Haven law, wasn’t that taught in schools?
The New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act was passed in 2000 and allows the safe, legal, and anonymous surrender of children under 30 days, no questions asked, at 24/7 hospitals, first aid squads, police and fire stations. The NJ Department of Children and Families (DCF) ensures that each child will be placed with a foster or pre-adoptive home.
Unfortunately, this law is relatively unknown amongst young adults and infrequently used. According to statistics provided by DCF, since its inception, only 71 infants have been surrendered to safe havens. Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Morris/Somerset), an original sponsor of the bill, feels this may be the result of state law not requiring schools to include Safe Haven in sex education classes. He has subsequently introduced legislation each session to require its inclusion in NJ sexual health education plans only for these efforts to be defeated in committee. (For NJ Hibernians – the bill S1126 has passed the NJ Senate and is now under consideration by the Assembly, please call your legislators to make your opinion known.)
Hibernians across the nation can help to rectify situations like this as ALL 50 states have Safe Haven laws. Our faith preaches a commitment to life that does not end when the baby is born and as Catholics we are uniquely qualified to push for a more balanced sexual education curriculum that places an emphasis on adoption and post-partum care.
Most Americans, whether pro-choice or pro-life, agree that abortion should be an option of last resort, wishing that the practice was limited in nature and numbers. This common ground should avail an opportunity for cooperation in making adoption a preferred and highlighted option for unwanted children or crisis pregnancies. Having graduated from a neighboring public school district to the one both young parents above attended, I can tell you first hand that our schools “covered” the Safe Haven law; however, it was discussed for only five minutes of my Senior year sex ed class.
Surely, with the magnitude of consequence that having a child demands, Americans across all walks of life can agree that knowledge of safe, anonymous, and legal alternatives to abortion or abandonment should be widely shared. Check with your local legislatures and school districts if this is the case. If not, consider a campaign to better educate your community on its use and availability.