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Massachusetts Gets Safe Haven Law

 

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For more information on Baby Safe Havens


July 30, 2004 - Boston, MA
- On Friday, July 30, 2004, I was privileged to witness Lt. Governor Healy of Massachusetts sign the Baby Safe Haven Bill into Law, making it the 47th state to enact such policy. With a slew of supporters in attendance at Boston Medical Center, Mike and Jean Morrisey were graciously thanked for their diligence in seeing the legislation through over the past four years.

Parents will now be able to leave unwanted newborns at hospitals, police departments and staffed fired departments without fear of legal repercussions under legislation signed into law on Friday, four years after it was first proposed.

The law only applies to infants who are less than 7 days old.

The bill, which takes effect in 90 days, was proposed in response to tragedies involving frightened parents who have left children in secluded spots to die rather than risk punishment by delivering them to the authorities.

``We have been confronted with several tragic and near tragic instances in recent years, where newborns have been abandoned in dangerous and life threatening situations,'' Healey said. ``The new safe havens law will help save the lives of abandoned infants by giving panicked parents a safe alternative.''

The law requires the Department of Social Services to take custody of the newborn and find safe foster care. The agency is also instructed to create a public awareness campaign to promote the new law as well as teen pregnancy programs and adoption information.

The campaign will target areas with the highest teen pregnancy rates.

July 28, 2004 -Tolland, CT- Massachusetts will become the 47th state to have a Baby Safe Haven Law. The bill will be signed into law by Gov. Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey sometime in the coming month.

Advocates, Mike and Jean Morrisey are delighted. While they say they would have preferred to be the 26th state, "at least we weren't 50th," said the couple.

Tolland resident, Robyn Brown Surdel was also instrumental in advocating the law in Massachusetts after her television series, Robyn's Nest ~ The Parenting Network, was credited with saving the life of a Connecticut newborn in 2002. "That baby was abandoned at Bay State Hospital in Massachusetts, causing quite a stir among law enforcement and putting the parents in jeopardy of being arrested for charges of abandonment. Hopefully, that won't happen again as it defeats the purpose of Safe Haven," Surdel stated. "I couldn't be more pleased that Massachusetts is finally getting on board with the rest of the country. It's about time," Surdel furthered with a smile.

In Massachusetts, during the past six weeks alone, four infants were abandoned in public places including a near deadly abandonment on Martha's Vineyard.

According to the Mike Morrisey, since May 1, 2001 there have been 11 babies abandoned in Massachusetts. Six were found dead. Three were found sick or suffering from exposure, similar to Baby Vinnie who recuperated at Children's Hospital in Boston from hypothermia and hypoxia, a shortage of oxygen. The other two babies were found in relatively good health at churches in Springfield, according to Morrisey.

Surdel said among the New England states with safe haven legislation, the number of abandoned babies has remained low to non-existent. In the three years Connecticut has had legislation in place, there have been four babies left in designated safe havens and most recently the premature baby girl abandoned on a Branford doorstep this month.

"At this point, I believe the primary reason babies are being abandoned in unsafe places is the lack of publicity in Connecticut about the laws. I have produced several shows to help promote the law, written numerous articles and even speak publicly, but more needs to be done to reach the primary audience, the teen population," Surdel concludes.

Robyn's Nest Related Articles:
Safe Haven Laws and Organizations by State
Pregnancy Resources - Safe Houses by State
Adoption Agency Locator by State
Talking to your Teen about Pregnancy
10 Tips from Teens

Teen Pregnancy Links
Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Mood Disorders

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