There was a time when American parents abandoning their children were a rarity and fit a narrow profile.
Due to the overwhelming cultural or social pressure, their unplanned pregnancy put them at significant risk, so they felt they had no choice but to hide the pregnancy, deliver alone, and abandon the child.
Now, with the reversal of Roe v. Wade amid limited access to birth control, the profile of at-risk parents is much broader. People facing these conditions are no longer extreme outliers, but rather fit the profile of an average person of reproductive age from any state where abortion is now illegal or highly restricted.
The legal landscape is changing in alarming ways — traumatizing birth parents and children alike through unwanted births, while fueling a profitable adoption system.
Privately funded “baby boxes” – modern versions of medieval abandoned wheels – are being installed in so many locations that they are quietly forming a national infrastructure. In turn, nine states have updated their safe harbor laws to allow parents to use them, and another nine states are proposing similar changes this legislative season.
What’s wrong with baby boxes?
First, its scaled-up use is a sign that people are increasingly forced into pregnancy and childbirth.
Second, they are an indicator of distrust between communities and state-sponsored services. Because of bias and social stigma, many people don’t feel safe going to alternative surrender locations, such as hospitals, fire stations, paramedics, or daycare.
Third, many parents are forced to drop out due to economic constraints – the current ‘baby box’ system quickly moves their children into pre-approved, economically secure families, while the biological parents’ rights are quickly being terminated.
Fourth, baby boxes show that while we care about the babies, we don’t extend the care to biological parents or families who are struggling.
At $20,000 each, the 138 boxes cost $2.76 million in the United States. Indiana alone has 92 boxes and plans to install more, having recently approved an additional $1 million worth of baby boxes.
Nineteen percent of single mothers in Indiana live in poverty; many do not have access to birth control or abortion; half of the state’s pregnancies are unwanted or unplanned; and there is no access to anonymous birth.
These circumstances are not accidental, but the result of deliberate laws and policies – and reflect the circumstances of parents across the country. Baby box funds could have financed accessible birth control or childcare so the parents could keep their babies, find work and become self-sufficient.
The media is full of stories celebrating parents who relinquish children as being “heroic” and “selfless,” but none of the articles mention how horrifying it is that the birth parent bleeds or suffers a massive infection from walking alone. were born without access to medical care or trauma counseling.
These women are not just breeding grounds to complete other people’s families. And yet, because of Roe’s rollback, economists expect an additional 50,000 unplanned or unwanted births annually.
This means that current US laws contribute to tens of thousands of traumatized families.
We need to find ways to increase reproductive freedom, including fair access to contraception and abortion. We should also offer anonymous birth so that at-risk parents are not forced to put themselves and their babies at risk during delivery. Safe harbor laws need to be revised to remove “gotcha” clauses that prosecute parents despite their unsustainable circumstances.
Lawmakers should work with local communities to determine where parents feel safest if they should abandon their child, then amend the laws accordingly. This broken, judgmental system needs to be changed.
Copyright 2023 Tribune Contentbureau.