“Baby Boxes” Now Take Unwanted Babies In Many US States

By Donald A. Collins | 17 August 2019
Church and State

On page A3 of the August 16, 2019 Wall Street Journal, I happened on a bizarre piece which reported on the installations of “baby boxes” in places like fire houses which allow mothers who don’t want their babies to deposit them in these boxes and an alarm goes off so someone can come and reprieve the infant, which will be taken to a safe place such as a hospital until foster parents can be identified.

These depositories almost looked like ATM machines.

Since I recently wrote on this site about the legal attacks and undue restrictions on American women seeking relief from parenting by taking the 2 pill combo that induces early abortions I was amazed to learn that under laws passed by many states, the rejecting mother who pops her baby in one of these boxes is exonerated from any legal action.

I am not in favor of prosecuting these mothers who reject their babies, but the need for this service underlines the effect of restrictions on abortion choice and/or the frequent lack of availability of birth control methods even in sophisticated USA.

One can only feel sorry at the need for such alternatives being required 46 years after the Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs Wade and the many improved methods of fertility regulation which now exist. Sadly, these birth control methods including safe early abortion are all too often not available, particularly for young women, but popping an unwanted baby in a box is certainly better than discarding it in a toilet or other unsafe places where it could die.

For volunteer firefighters in Coolspring, Ind., a buzzing pager could mean a house fire, a trapped elevator, a highway wreckage—or a baby in a box.

The township in northern Indiana is the site of a so-called Safe Haven Baby Box, an incubator-like device that can be found at a growing number of firehouses and hospitals around the country.

Installed on an exterior wall, the devices function like a return slot at a library. An anguished mother unwilling or unable to care for a newborn can open the door from the outside and deposit a baby into the device, triggering a silent alarm and locking when closed.

In the past four years, Indiana, Arkansas, Ohio and Pennsylvania have passed laws allowing parents to surrender their children without needing to interact with any medical or emergency personnel, face-to-face or otherwise.

Indiana is now home to close to a dozen of the boxes, including one just unveiled at a firehouse in the northern lakeside town of Syracuse. Three hospitals in northwestern Ohio have introduced the boxes in the past few months. They are also coming to Arkansas, which just passed a law authorizing their use, and a similar measure is pending in Louisiana. With more cities and towns planning to add them, the total number of baby-box sites in the U.S. could reach two dozen by year end.

So far, a total of two mothers have used them, according to baby-box advocates—both times in Coolspring.

The boxes are part of a broader “safe haven” movement championed by conservative activists trying to discourage abortions and infanticide. Stories of mothers abandoning babies in dumpsters, alleys, public toilets or the woods fueled support for laws giving immunity to those who relinquish healthy infants to emergency personnel instead of going through adoption channels. Starting with Texas in 1999, all 50 states have enacted safe-haven laws.

Baby boxes guarantee more privacy, said Monica Kelsey, a 46-year-old volunteer medic and firefighter from Woodburn, Ind., who runs a nonprofit that manufactures and promotes the device.

“These women want to remain anonymous, and in some states they don’t get that,” said Ms. Kelsey.

She said she developed the device after discovering as an adult that her mother was a rape victim who abandoned her at a hospital hours after she was born.

The vented and temperature-controlled devices are equipped with sensors that automatically alert emergency personnel—stationed at the building or minutes away by car—when the door is opened and when anything is deposited inside. Anxious mothers can also push a button to trigger a 911 call.

Ms. Kelsey’s nonprofit group charges around $10,000 to install and promote a box with billboard advertising. Charities such as Knights of Columbus have typically picked up all the costs. The fire stations and hospitals are responsible for testing the devices to make sure they are working.

I have worked with agencies offering abortion choice for 50 years. I helped start abortion services here and around the world, but this story brought home to me how far we still have to go even in the US in reaching women who want choice. And the worldwide shortage of fertility methods is much worse. Managing fertility as badly as we do now means the planet continues to add a million people (births minus deaths) every fourth day and it is projected that our present US population of 329 million (up from 179 million in 1960) will be raised to over 400 million in a few decades. Shall we add more and more $10,000 baby boxes or simply offer more accessible birth control including abortions? Doubtless Monica Kelsey mentioned above who makes these $10,000 baby ATM like boxes isn’t anxious to see the need decreasing.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
ASIN: B00MA40TVE
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