NOTE: This was submitted in opposition to LB 6, but the same objections hold for LB 157 which eventually was passed after many revisions and compromises.
Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization--the largest adoptee civil rights organization in North America-- opposes LB 6 which if enacted would permit parents to “legally” abandon infants 30 days old or less.
Because infants surrendered under LB 6 are expected to be placed for adoption, Bastard Nation's objections to LB 6 focus on how the law will effect negatively the civil rights of adoptees.
(1) LB 6 erodes adoptee civil rights by increasing the number of anonymous children available for adoption through unethical and unprofessional practices.
LB 6 establishes parallel child welfare systems, where one system opposes the long-standing principles of the other. Those long-standing principles are informed consent and a full record of identifying information and social and medical histories. LB 6 eliminates adoptees’ rights to identity by denying their access to original birth and heritage records. Safe Haven laws were enacted right after Oregon and Alabama restored adopted adults' right to their original birth records. That was no coincidence. The National Council for Adoption (NCFA), a trade organization of conservative adoption agencies dedicated to sealed and secret adoptions and opposed to adoptee identity rights have admitted before various state legislatures, that Safe Haven laws are the response to the growing and successful movement in the US to restore the civil right of identity to adoptees. NCFA claims that only through anonymous abandonment can courts maintain “parental privacy“--though adoption proceedings are already closed and confidential in every state.
LB 6 denies parents--particularly non-surrendering parents (usually the father) --their right to due process by eliminating their ability to locate the dependency proceeding to which they are a party. LB 6 contravenes the family reunification guidelines of the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act and parts of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. LB 6 replaces professional best practice standards with unprofessional and unethical "non-bureaucratic placement" by letting parents abandon solely for convenience or out of ignorance. The law preys on parents who honestly believe they are surrendering their child for adoption instead of providing evidence to be used in a dependency hearing at which they have a right and duty to appear. The law encourages parents literally to default at their hearings. The supporters call that "proper" and "courageous."
(2) SB 6 disenfranchises natural parents, encourages unethical behavior, and hides crime.
There is no evidence that Safe Haven laws have decreased unsafe abandonment or saved lives. A 2005 survey of county coroners in California found that the number of newborns dying from abandonment and neglect since 2001 remained at 13-15 per year.
Save Havens are promoted as an easy solution for mothers so desperate that unless they can abandon their newborns anonymously the mothers will kill the children. State-written reports and news accounts tell a different story.The “Safely Surrendered and Abandoned Infants in Los Angeles County” ICAN report published in 2002 and updated in 2005, identified Safe Haven-protected parents who were interviewed as poor, overwhelmed, and ignorant of child welfare practice. Some parents appeared to be undocumented workers, leery of professional assistance.
News accounts throughout the country regularly tell us of clean, immaculately dressed newborns with stuffed animals, baby blankets, and notes to doctors, left at ER’s in no danger of neglect or death. Newspapers have also reported instances in which hospital officials, in conflict with established hospital programs that discourage incidents of “boarder baby abandonment” encourage identified, confined mothers to leave their newborns at the hospital when they are later discharged with no ethical parenting or child placement counseling to guide them.
Safe Haven laws are open to further abuses as shown by the Twyana Davis case in Ohio. Davis, an adult, conceived a child with her 12-year old cousin. Davis recklessly abandoned the newborn. After years of supporting Safe Haven laws , Davis admitted the father's identity and age. Last fall she was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison for rape. In April 2006, in Rochester, New York, Lamar Brown, 31, tried to drop off a newborn he claimed he found in a nearby park. When hospital personnel became suspicious and called police, Brown admitted that he had had sexual relations with the 13-year old mother 9 months earlier and had helped deliver the baby. He was charged with 2nd degree rape and endangering the welfare of a child. Safe Haven proponents would have Davis and Brown legally abandon these babies anonymously and then call them heroes. The government is essentially offering parents who have committed, or are contemplating, crimes a cover up.
Abuses are not the exception. In several cases the parent has communicated to the Safe Haven recipient that they were surrendering the child anonymously out of love or because they lacked resources. Those parents did not feel homicidal, but simply wanted a quick or secret adoption. Temporary and permanent surrender options have existed for decades and are used by thousands of new parents every year. We have welfare and other programs through children's services that new parents can use when they lack funds or support.
Unfortunately, Safe Haven proponents have convinced parents they have only two options: The Dumpster or the Safe Haven.. The responsible alternatives to baby dumping are not mentioned: counseling, public assistance, temporary surrender, permanent surrender for adoption, and family communication. That omission keeps new and potential parents ignorant of real solutions.As Bob Brandt, Executive Director of The Nebraska Children’s Home Society said in 2004 when a similar proposal to LB 6 was presented to the legislature, “Safe Haven laws are a way to circumvent adoption laws and have unintended consequences…I hope society doesn’t get to the point where they think abandonment of a child is a good thing. We just get the word out there that there is safe help We think we have laws that allow us to protect the babies.”
Finally, Nebraska law does not need fixed.
There is no epidemic of newborn abandonments and neonaticides in the state. Since 1996, 3 discarded newborns have been found alive and 1 found dead from unknown causes.SB 6 trivializes baby abandonment by presenting it as just another consumer choice. No blame. No shame. No names.Furthermore, by encouraging identity erasure, parental ignorance, irresponsibility, and secrecy, and by refuting the due process rights of parents, LB 6 endangers the integrity and safety of all families in the State of Nebraska--not just those at risk for unsafe abandonment. No law is valid because it might "save a life." Otherwise, we would not have our Bill of Rights. We do not let the police pull drivers over randomly and give them Breathalyzer tests because "it might save a life." We do not outlaw guns because “it might save a life." The state should not help parents hide their own children’s identities and histories because “it might save a life.” It should not help parents hide children from each other because “it might save a life.”
Protect Nebraska families! Vote Do Not Pass on LB 6.
Marley Elizabeth Greiner
Bastard Nation: The Adpotee Rights Organization