Bastard Nation is generally pleased with the recent publication of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's report, "Unintended Consequences: "Safe Haven" Laws are Causing Problems not Solving Them," and we are greatly pleased that their prominent and influential voice has joined the ranks of Safe Haven critics.
We find much to be in agreement with, especially the need for statistical and data collection and analysis on the causes of baby abandonment and the women who do it. The report is the first high profile step in what we hope will become a public and professional debate on the ethics and efficacy of legalized baby abandonment.
We are disappointed, however, that the report did not it delve into the socio- political agenda of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA) and other sealed records promoters who advocate Safe Haven legislation since, without the political context, the laws tend to seem benign and criticism undeserved. We are also disappointed that the report neglected to address proposed expansion of Safe Haven laws. Instead it appeared to suggest that the laws could be fixed-up-made-better - an assumption that could play into the very hands of baby dump pushers. The laws need repealed, not repaired.
The report suggests that girls and women suspected at being "at risk" be weeded out and subjected to some sort of professional "intervention." We believe this strategy is well intentioned but of the same mind-set as Safe Haven advocates. Intervention will attract those who might need some sort of practical support and counseling. It will not, however, attract those in multi-vectored pregnancies and denial who are genuinely at risk. It is time to accept the fact that babies will end up in canals, trash bins and buried in backyards no matter how many intervention programs and Safe Haven drop-offs are in town because baby saving is not on their mothers' agenda, and no amount of professional fussing will put it there.
Even more troubling: Over 4,000 faith-based "crisis pregnancy centers" (CPCs), heavily funded by federal grants and often affiliated with faith-based adoption agencies, can be found in the United States today. They would no doubt be at the forefront of intervention services where they would aggressively direct women at minimal risk into adoption plans. Not coincidentally, for the last year, NCFA has been "training the trainer" through its Infant Adoption Awareness program. Funded with a multi-million dollar federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, the program, as of February 2003, has trained more than 750 social workers, nurses and other professionals in Title X Clinics in the art of "raising adoption awareness" within the CPC environment, and ultimately among thousands of center personnel and clients. This "awareness" most probably includes an awareness of sealed records ideology and "non-bureaucratic placement" that can turn CPC personnel into de facto baby dumpers.
Repair or Repeal
We believe that some of the comments and recommendations made in the report can and will be used by Safe Haven advocates - as well as moderates and reformers - to "improve" without much question Safe Haven programs, not abolish them. Consequently, "improvements" on laws, could make the laws more palatable, building a legal bulwark against adoptee - not just the safe havened abandonee - rights to identity and records by creating a heretofore nonexistent right to parental anonymity.
Bastard Nation and like-minded adoptee rights activists know too well the damage caused in the past 20 years by well-intentioned reformers who were willing to take " baby steps" along the yellow brick road to open records. Their happy acceptance of compromise legislation, such as disclosure and contact vetoes, has made unrestricted access to our own records in some states today a near impossible task.
The Future of Safe Havens
A few of the most problematic "enhancements" we see on the Safe Haven horizon are:
legislation to place how-to-abandon your baby units into the school curriculum;
extension of drop-off points to include non-medical facilities; and
legislation that would permit women who promise to relinquish to give birth anonymously at tax payer expense through Medicaid or other federally funded programs.
"Unintended Consequences" is a constructive report on the current state of legalized baby abandonment and should be on the reading list of anyone who cares about the welfare of children and adoptees. Bastard Nation believes, however, that Safe Haven/Baby Moses laws are simply a backdoor attempt to codify anonymous and secret adoption. They encourage unaccountability within the adoption industry, and permit the questionable transfer of children from uninformed parents to strangers. The laws do not effect the women and babies most at-risk. Instead, Safe Havens not only prop up the dying sealed records system, but they create a state-facilitated system of identity stripping and blank records.
Some things cannot be fixed. Bastard Nation believes that Safe Haven/Baby Moses laws do not need to be improved. They need to be legally abandoned!
(The above is a summary of the Bastard Nation response to the report. The entire 2500 word response can be found at http://www.bastards.org/activism/EBDreport.html.)
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.