It’s a tragedy that doesn’t have to happen but sadly still does. A frightened mother makes the unthinkable decision to throw her newborn baby into a garbage can and walk away.
It has happened in South Carolina at least 19 times. Six infants have been found dead; 13 were found alive.
The most recent newborn was discovered April 9 near Myrtle Beach. A 19-year-old boy heard crying coming from a large dumpster; he opened a garbage bag and found the baby.
Horry County police say the 8-pound, 6-ounce girl was healthy, despite her umbilical cord being wrapped around her neck when she was found. The infant’s mother later turned herself in to police and is facing serious charges.
In South Carolina, since Daniel’s Law (known as the Baby Safe Haven in all other states) was put in place in 2000, 31 newborns have been safely surrendered.
“There are laws in place in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that protect the mother and the unwanted child,” said Dawn Geras, with the National Safe Haven Alliance. “Unfortunately, not everyone knows and uses the law. Instead, unwanted babies die and mothers often go to prison.”
Nationwide, 2,872 infants have found new adoptive families under the Baby Safe Haven law since the first bill was written in 1998. One of those children is my daughter, Lilly. She was safely surrendered by her birth mother in 2003 when Lilly was three days old.
I am thankful Lilly’s birth mother made that choice to leave her newborn in a safe place. There are many parents out there, like me, who are more than willing to open our homes and our hearts to these precious children.
In South Carolina, you will not be prosecuted for abandonment if you take your unharmed baby to someone who works in a designated Safe Haven. You can leave your baby, up to 30 days old, with an employee on duty at any hospital, emergency medical services provider, law enforcement agency, fire station or worship center.
You do not have to reveal your identity, but providing any medical information is helpful.
The South Carolina Safe Haven Hotline is 888-510-BABY. The website www.nationalsafehavenalliance.org also has a map that explains the law state-by-state.
April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month. “How much more abusive can it be to murder a newborn baby?” said Geras. “So we ask everyone who hears about the law to talk about it, tell a friend, and they might just save a life.”
Suzanne Hobbs is a freelance writer living in Bluffton.