Perhaps Nebraska legislators should rename their state’s “Safe Haven” law as “The Law of Unintended Consequences.”
“From Miami to Michigan and from Atlanta to Arizona, with Indiana in the middle, desperate parents have seemingly rushed their unruly children to the state before lawmakers convene on Friday to change the law,” says an article posted yesterday at the website of Omaha’s KETV.
Nebraska’s Safe Haven law was passed in July to encourage mothers who didn’t want their newborn babies to take them to hospitals rather than abandon them to die. Under its terms, children can be left at hospitals without fear of prosecution.
But because the law was loosely worded, parents of troublesome minor children of other ages have taken advantage of it to surrender their kids to the state.
The KETV article reported that Omaha police are searching for a 17-year-old girl who fled when she realized her mother planned to drop her off at a local hospital under the law. Her 14-year-old brother stayed at the hospital and is now in state custody, under the terms of the law.
According to Associated Press, of the 33 children surrendered to date under Nebraska’s Safe Haven law, 28 have been aged 11 or older. None have been newborns.
To remedy the situation, state legislators are debating today whether to reword the law, which currently uses the term “child” which applies legally to all children under the age of 18. A proposed amendment would limit the “Safe Haven” provision to newborns up to three days old.
— Tom McFeely