Officials remind residents of safe haven laws after Hobbs mother throws baby in dumpster

·2 min read
Newly installed Safe Haven Baby Box at South Bend Fire Station 11 on North Bendix Drive on Jan. 13, 2022.
Newly installed Safe Haven Baby Box at South Bend Fire Station 11 on North Bendix Drive on Jan. 13, 2022.

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.

Safe Haven Baby Box founder Monica Kelsey places a replica baby into a newly installed baby box at South Bend Fire Station 11 on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.
Safe Haven Baby Box founder Monica Kelsey places a replica baby into a newly installed baby box at South Bend Fire Station 11 on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.

“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."

Safe Haven sign hangs at a Chicago Fire Station in Chicago, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. Slightly over 4,000 babies have been surrendered since the first safe haven law was adopted 1999, according to both the National Safe Haven Alliance and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which put out a report in 2020. The law, which exists in varying forms in every state, allows parents to leave a baby at a safe location without criminal consequences.
Safe Haven sign hangs at a Chicago Fire Station in Chicago, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. Slightly over 4,000 babies have been surrendered since the first safe haven law was adopted 1999, according to both the National Safe Haven Alliance and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which put out a report in 2020. The law, which exists in varying forms in every state, allows parents to leave a baby at a safe location without criminal consequences.

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 csilva2@currentargus.com, 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

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