A reminder of NH’s Safe Haven Law

Phyllis Woods at State House event, Concord (Ellen Kolb photo)

The New Hampshire Knights of Columbus have launched a project to bring higher visibility to New Hampshire’s Safe Haven law, which permits the parent of a newborn child to surrender the child to anyone on duty at a “safe haven”: a hospital, police or fire station, or a church. Most states have some variation of this statute, differing mainly in the age limit for the child and the places that serve as havens.

New Hampshire’s law was passed in 2003. Ten co-sponsors led by then-Rep. Phyllis Woods of Dover shepherded the law through a 327-45 vote in the House followed by passage on a voice vote in the Senate.

As explained on the Baby Safe Haven web site, an online clearinghouse for information about these laws,

The purpose of Safe Haven is to protect unwanted babies from being hurt or killed because they were abandoned. You may have heard tragic stories of babies left in dumpsters or public toilets. The parents who committed these acts may have been under severe emotional distress. The mothers may have hidden their pregnancies, fearful of what would happen if their families found out. Because they were afraid and had nowhere to turn for help, they abandoned their babies. Abandoning a baby puts the child in extreme danger. Too often, it results in the child’s death. It is also illegal, with severe consequences. But with Safe Haven, this tragedy doesn’t ever have to happen again.

Woods spoke about the law at the recent Knights of Columbus Birth-Right dinner in Allenstown, and later posted to Facebook: “Thirteen years after we passed the Baby Safe Haven law in NH, the State Council of the K of C is taking up the mission of publicizing the law with a spokesperson, radio and TV appearances, and signs in Safe Haven locations. We are excited and deeply grateful for their efforts.”

News of the recent deaths of newborns in Virginia and California underscore the fact that even in states with Safe Haven laws, too many people are unaware of the safe-haven option. Thumbs up to the NH K of C for working to change that.


Remember Safe Haven

My New Hampshire neighbor Darlene Pawlik put up a Facebook post recently that reminded me about New Hampshire’s Safe Haven law, passed in 2003. Texas passed the first such law in 1999 to protect abandoned infants, and now every state has a similar measure. Under New Hampshire’s Safe Haven law, newborn children up to 7 days old may be relinquished to staff at fire stations, hospitals, police stations or churches by parents who for whatever reason choose not to keep the baby. The idea is to make sure that an “unwanted” child is cared for instead of abandoned. At the same time, the law was crafted to protect the privacy of the parents distressed and overwhelmed by the birth – a teenager who has kept her pregnancy concealed¬†from her family,¬†for example.

Let the record show that the chief sponsor of New Hampshire’s Safe Haven law was Phyllis Woods of Dover. Of her nine co-sponsors, one is still in office: Rep. Andy Martel of Manchester, now running for re-election.

Safe Haven passed overwhelmingly in the New Hampshire House eleven years ago, 327-45. The usual pro-life/pro-abortion divide was obscured for one blessed day. Supporters ranged from Ray Buckley (then a rep, now chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party) and Chris Pappas (now a Democratic Executive Councilor) to Sharon Carson and Sam Cataldo (now pro-life state Senators). The bill later passed on a voice vote in the Senate after an unfriendly amendment was voted down along party lines.

Post by Safe Haven Law.