Officials reminded New Mexicans of the state's "Safe Haven" laws which allow newborns to be surrendered at a fire station, police station or hospital after a teen mom was accused of abandoning her child in a dumpster in Hobbs.
The Safe Haven for Infants Law is intended to protect parents from criminal prosecution if they leave an infant at a designated safe haven in an effort to save lives. Parents can relinquish a child to a safe haven within 90 days of birth as long as the child has not been subject to abuse or neglect, according to a news release from the state Department of Health.
“This rarely used but critical law saves lives. Increasing awareness about what can be done safely and without prosecution, offers a desperately needed alternative for parents who are unable to care for their infants, including giving them up for adoption,” DOH Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in the news release.
Eighteen-year-old Alexia Avila, from Hobbs, was charged with attempted first-degree murder and felony abuse of a child after the infant was found alive by a group searching for anything of value in the dumpster.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), homicide is the 13th leading cause of death among infants and is more likely to happen on the day of birth. By 2008 all 50 states including Puerto Rico had enacted some form of safe haven law, sometimes known as "Baby Moses Laws."
Between 2008 and 2017 infant homicide on the day of birth saw a 66 percent decline but remains at least 5.4 times higher than the rate at any other time in life.
Texas was the first state to enact a “Baby Moses Law” in 1999, after 13 children were abandoned that year, three of them involving infants that were found dead, according to the DOH.
According to the National Safe Haven Alliance (NSHA), 4,422 babies have been saved to date by these laws in the U.S. The NSHA provides safe haven providers and parents facing unplanned pregnancies with safe alternatives that prevent infant abandonment.
The NSHA also operates a 24/7 crisis hotline to answer questions about safe haven laws, adoption and parenting at 1-888-510-BABY (2229).
Claudia Silva is a reporter from the UNM Local Reporting Fellowship. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 575-628-5506 or on Twitter @thewatchpup.
This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: NM reminds residents of safe haven laws after baby found in dumpster