Did you miss it? During oral argument by the Supreme Court of the United States last month in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health In that case, Justice Amy Coney Barrett raised an under-discussed topic in the abortion debate: shelter laws.
Laws allow mothers to safely deliver their newborns to a designated facility – such as a hospital or fire station (each state varies) – if they cannot care for them, for up to 30 days after birth, with no risk of prosecution or child abandonment charges.
In her remarks, Barrett addressed the concern of progressives about what they call “forced motherhood” and the threat of motherhood to “hinder women’s access to work and equal opportunities.” Shelter laws, she said, essentially remove that burden – and she’s right.
With safe refuge options in every state, women across the country have no obligation to parent, and laws provide a valid and important option for abortion. But pro-abortion activists prefer not to talk about it, even though the laws provide an imperfect but important response to the difficult circumstances.
For those who use and promote the shelters, they work well. The National Safe Haven Alliance has been part of at least 4,442 infant surrenders since its founding in 2004. But because the laws and locations aren’t well known, many women aren’t even aware of the option. . With more awareness, thousands more could be saved from the abortion tragedy.
Those who are truly “pro-choice” certainly won’t resist a mother’s decision to safely abandon her newborn baby.
Pro-life and adopted activist Monica Kelsey has taken shelters to the next level by creating Safe Haven baby safes, heated deposits installed in the exterior walls of fire stations or hospitals where parents can place a newborn safely no questions asked. Each box has an exterior door that locks once the baby is in place and three separate alarms that alert facility staff. There is an interior door to allow safe retrieval of the infant.
Kelsey, who was inspired to create the boxes after learning about her own abandonment as an infant, said most babies are recovered within minutes of arriving. “The longest time it has ever taken us to take a child out of a box is 4 minutes, and the fastest child was picked up in 45 seconds,” she said in an interview in podcast.
The boxes are essential because they are truly anonymous. Parents don’t have to talk to anyone, which can often be a barrier in more traditional shelter options, where they can be asked to pass on their medical history or ask other intrusive questions.
The main hurdle now is awareness, which is why Barrett’s recognition of safe-haven options is so remarkable. Many mothers faced with this choice are unaware of the laws, the boxes, or the availability of an anonymous remittance.
Granted, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, does not educate pregnant women about shelters and often does not even offer traditional adoption as a viable option. Planned Parenthood’s 2018 annual report showed that the organization performed 82 abortions for every recommendation for adoption. For a group that champions a commitment to “choice,” it offers the smallest of choices – oddly enough, the most financially beneficial to the organization. Planned Parenthood’s bottom line would suffer if it truly counseled women about options like adoption and shelters.
What if every abortion center gave pregnant women a guide to state laws and locations and the phone number for a 24/7 emergency hotline? What if churches and community organizations offered refuge opportunities in their newsletters and on social media? What if more women knew they didn’t have to kill their babies to get on with their lives?
Many women do not want to have an abortion but may feel pressured to do so due to difficult circumstances. “I will never forget having to get up at 5 am to go to an 8 am appointment to do something I didn’t want to do,” wrote one postabortion mother. “But I felt like I had no choice.”
If the mother had known about her state’s shelter law, she might have chosen differently. Safe shelters give mothers another option, babies another chance, and people on both sides of the abortion debate an opportunity to work together. Those who are truly “pro-choice” certainly won’t resist a mother’s decision to safely abandon her newborn baby. And the rest of us know that more ways of choosing life are good for mother, child, and the world. We must do everything in our power to make this world a safer place for every beloved image bearer.