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Health

Pregnancy Centers, Safe Haven Sites Combat Infant Abandonment

September 20, 2023

The National Safe Haven Alliance (NSHA) notes that in 2021, 31 babies were placed in dumpsters, found in backpacks, or discarded in other dangerous locations. Twenty-two of these infants were found deceased, while 73 babies were saved by safe haven laws that year.

In the year since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022 and several states enacted abortion bans, numerous women and girls are now finding themselves in the extraordinary circumstance of an unplanned pregnancy without the stability to support a child.

Some in the faith community offer a solution for these mothers with nowhere to turn.

Alpha Pregnancy Centers

A ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, Alpha Pregnancy Center (APC) supports the southwestern corner of Georgia with several locations. They offer parenting and various baby-related resources, ultrasound services, counseling on options moving forward in the pregnancy, and even connecting mothers to adoption agencies.

“Our mission is to encourage, enrich, and evangelize women and men from all backgrounds by offering hope and help in Christ’s name to those who have been affected by the impact of unexpected pregnancy, the pregnancy itself, and the devastating effects of post-abortion,” APC Services Director Jessica Sheets explains. “We have volunteers from different denominations and walks of life that volunteer in all of our clinics.”

The team at APC offers prenatal and parenting classes and provisions like diapers and wipes, clothing, and other items a baby needs. They also offer hope and healing to women, helping them understand who they are in Christ and the freedom God has planned for their futures.

“Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, we have seen a significant increase in the number of women seeking these services,” Sheets says. “Men are also part of the story. A woman in a healthy relationship is more likely to choose parenting, so our APC Dads program works to mentor dads in their new role and help connect their hearts to their children.”

Abortion Remains Relevant

“We have seen an increase in the number of women considering abortion coming to our clinic in recent years,” Sheets says. “We have been present in the community as a medical clinic since 2011, and word of mouth is our biggest referral source. The women who come to us often leave feeling encouraged, heard, and loved. We see this in the well over 99% positive ratings we receive on our exit surveys.

“There are many reasons a woman may be considering an abortion. We want to help her think through that decision and find hope and options to help her consider choosing life for her baby. Some women still choose abortion, and they may need someone to walk through the emotions afterward. We offer a post-abortion Bible study for these women and for men also.”

Sheets says it is vital for a woman coming to the center to have the opportunity to speak up and share her thoughts, feelings, and concerns with someone else. This can be a tremendous source of self-care for women going through a traumatic situation.

“Often, just having a community to share with can be a relief. We were made to live in relationship and community with God and others,” she points out.

Impact of Safe Haven Legislation

The highest risk for infant homicide is on the day of birth. By 2008, all 50 states and Puerto Rico had enacted Safe Haven Laws to address infant abandonment and endangerment.

A Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issued by the Centers for Disease Control analyzed infant homicides in the United States from 2008 to 2017 to determine whether rates changed after the nationwide implementation of these laws and to examine the association between infant homicide rates and state-specific safe haven age limits.

The CDC found a 66.7 percent decrease in the mortality rate from 2008-2017 compared to 1989–1998. Still, the homicide rate on the first day of life was 5.4 times higher than that for any other time.

The CDC report revealed that programs and policies strengthening economic support, providing affordable childcare, and improving the skills of young parents would likely contribute to preventing infant homicide. The report found no apparent association between infant homicide rates and Safe Haven age limits.

Individual states implement their safe haven laws differently, specifically regarding the time frame a mother has to decide to surrender her child, where to surrender, who can do so, and medical history requirements. In Georgia, where APC is located, the window is 30 days after birth. She must leave the newborn with an employee or volunteer at a fire station, police station, or hospital to be immune from criminal charges.

The Hope Box

The Georgia law originally called for seven days. But in 2017, Sarah Koeppen, heading up The Hope Box, was instrumental in changing the law.

The Hope Box provides training to police and fire departments in Georgia to make sure they’re trained and equipped to take safe haven newborns. They also do outreach to mothers, encouraging them to utilize safe havens as a last resort.

Koeppen told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2021 her motivation to start the nonprofit and see its mission through.

“I’m very passionate about fighting for the next generation so they can thrive because they’re going to be my doctors, lawyers, my politicians,” she said. “I’m a big advocate for kids’ future and advocating to see that they thrive.”

The National Safe Haven Alliance equips providers and parents facing unplanned pregnancies to prevent infant abandonment while providing holistic care for both parents and babies. Every parent is given the resources and opportunity to create a safe post-birth plan for their baby and has access to a 24/7 crisis hotline accessible at 1-888-510-BABY (2229).

The organization advocates for safe haven laws as an option for a parent unable or unwilling to care for their infant.

In some states, church staff and volunteers, participating adoption agency staff, county health department staff, and infant safety devices at designated locations can qualify as safe haven sites.

The Safe Haven Baby Project

The Safe Haven Baby Box Project has a feature on its website that allows mothers to locate a safe haven box quickly. The project also has a 24/7 crisis hotline at 1-866-99-BABY, answered by a person and offering mothers options including a parenting plan, adoption plan, referrals to pregnancy resource centers, face-to-face surrenders, and, as a last resort, assistance with a safe surrender in a Safe Haven Baby Box.

The SHBB says box funding comes entirely from private donors, fundraising campaigns, or other organizations. Three fail-safe silent alarms go off when a mother places her baby inside the box, alerting staff to their presence.

For more information on pregnancy centers such as APC, visit Care-Net.org.

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Jennifer Parks | Wealth of Geeks undefined

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