The COVID-19 pandemic has opened new avenues for Baby Safe Haven and Baby Box recruitment. While the Wyoming Department of Family Services simply spieled its program with no agenda outside of “USE IT,” Christian zealots have weaponized Safe Haven and now Baby Boxes to push their forced birth agenda during COVID-19 hysteria.
In late April 2020, Allan Parker, head of the Justice Foundation, (its ministry is the evangelical anti-abortion Operation Outcry) located in San Antonio, Texas, sent out a press release announcing that the organization is offering counseling to pregnant women pressured by circumstances” —listed as “job, economic uncertainty, etc”– -to undergo what he called an “emergency abortion.”
Fear leads to death; hope leads to life. We need to offer women hope for the future, not death.
The Justice Foundation’s idea of “hope” isn’t salary subsidies, mortgage/rent/utility cancellations, stay-at-home jobs, universal health care, referral services, or new/increased government assistance. No. Its idea of hope is to remain pregnant and then release the baby to the community via Safe Haven after it’s born. In case you’re wondering, JF opposes contraception (including condom usage) and sex education among a slew of other contemporary anti-family evils plaguing the country. It is funded in large part by Dr. James Leininger, a rightwing Texas bagman , whom Molly Ivins called God’s Sugar Daddy.
This argument, however, has maintained relevance in anti-abortion circles, though it has never been a secret that some supporters of Safe Haven have always believed, with absolutely no evidence, that the project is a major weapon to decrease abortion rates. Monica Kelsey, the founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes has posted on her Safe Haven Baby Boxes FB page that when Roe is overturned (as she is sure it will) Baby Boxes will go into full force throughout the country as women line up to dump their problems and shame into her hole-in-the-wall baby depositories. Columbia law professor Carol Sanger published the definitive article on the subject of Safe Haven and abortion 20 years ago in Infant Safe Haven Laws: Legislating in the Culture of Life, one of the few scholarly works on Safe Haven that’s not held hostage behind a paywall.
Most recently Allan Parker on behalf of the Justice Foundation filed an amicus with the US Supreme Court regarding hospital admittance privileges in Louisiana. In June Medical Services v Gee Parker argues that Safe Haven laws are a “safety net” that eliminates the need for abortion (and the subsequent trauma he claims all women who get abortions experience) since “all burden of unwanted child care has been transferred to society” and “constitutional under Gonzales v Carhart and Planned Parenthood. ” Absurdly Parker infers that previous to Safe Haven laws, women had no alternative but to keep and rear “unwanted” children. He not only trivializes motherhood by referring to it as “child care,” but he argues that Safe Haven is an alternative for women who want to become lawyers! Seriously!
“Non-bureaucratic” relinquishment and adoption is the word.
Nothing in the Justice Foundation’s press release suggests that there are numerous private and public support services available to assist pregnant women and new mothers in general, much less to help them specifically to keep their babies or even to make a normal adoption plan. Christo-Fascists at JF see only two “choices” that certain kinds of women in certain kinds of circumstances make: abortion or anonymous legal abandonment. Keeping one’s own baby apparently isn’t an option. Can you imagine the uproar if the Justice Foundation and its fellow travelers aimed their propaganda at men in a time of health crisis to no-questions-asked anonymous “release of their children to the community?” That would put an end to this nonsense fast.
JF fails to inform that Safe Haven is not a drive-by adoption program, but simply an emergency custody procedure that without serious legal intervention makes a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Parker seems to view women as morally addled. He twists logic –and morals–by emphasizing the side benefits of forgoing standard best practice in child welfare and adoption such as non-directed counseling and paper-signing.
To get his point across, Parker dangles a couple of carrots–or should I say karats–at pregnant women and new mothers strapped for money and other support right now by pointing out the pecuniary benefits of anonymous no-shame-no-blame-no-name baby dumping. Women using the program demonstrate, according to him, emotional and financial maturity:
Unlike abortions, Safe Haven is free and equally available to the rich and poor alike. There is no cost, no obligation, no legal procedure, and the woman is totally free to release her child to the state with no obligation for future child support.
If she is low-income, the state can also provide prenatal care and delivery of the child at no cost to the woman.
Safe Haven comes off as downright egalitarian, open to all, which maybe Parker believes will attract more liberal women. Question: how is getting free medical care from the government keep someone anonymous?
Safe Haven means that women aren’t forced to parent
The Justice Foundation and Operation Outcry have long considered Safe Haven laws the alternative to abortion. Seventeen years ago it secured Norma McCorvey (the Roe in Roe v Wade) to file suit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, to petition for a re-hearing of the landmark abortion decision.
One of the key arguments in the petition, submitted by Alan Parker, claimed that Safe Haven Law (then in 43 states) negates the use of abortion since the laws allowed women to “legally relinquish their children.” The petition was filed on June 13, 2003, and rejected two days later.
- Fortunately, new Safe Haven laws in every state allow freedom from child care if women feel that freedom is needed to become lawyers or whatever life
choices the woman may wish to pursue, while still protecting the child’s very life. Safe Haven laws also avoid all post-abortive trauma related to causing the death
of another human being.
- The Louisiana Safe Haven law represents a far better alternative to relieve women from the burden of “unwanted” child care than abortion. If any woman is unable to care for the baby, after birth, they can bring the newborn, up to sixty days old, to an emergency designated facility, medical facility, hospital, fire or police department, public health unit, or child advocacy center in Louisiana. La. Child Code Ann. Arts. 1149-53; Dept. of Children and Family Services, www.dcfs.louisiana.gov. All 50 states have similar drop-off laws. See www.nationalsafehavenalliance.org. Even if Roe, Doe and Casey were reversed today, no woman would have to care for an unwanted child. Whatever states choose to do with abortion, even if this Louisiana law were upheld, no woman would have to care for an unwanted child. Upholding the Fifth Circuit Opinion, even if abortion access were rare in Louisiana because of its gruesome nature, would mean justice for the child, mercy for the mother, and love for the newborns who would be dropped off at no charge (unlike abortions).
- The children would be quickly adopted by over a million people waiting to adopt newborns in America. Safe Haven is equally available to all.
- Footnote: The number of couples waiting to adopt newborns is approximately two million per year. Approximately six million women per year (10% of women of childbearing age) are infertile.
Does this mean that all of us who were adopted prior to Safe Haven Laws were actually never adopted since adoption didn’t exist? Can we sue somebody?
This is truly daffy stuff.
The Justice Foundation is not a late-comer to daffiness. In Texas, it worked with a group that attempted to overturn the federal Endangered Species Act that protects flora and fauna found only in San Marcos and Comal Counties. Parker argued that since beleaguered life forms such as Texas blind salamanders are not involved in “interstate commerce,” they are undeserving of federal protection.
To the best of my memory, I first ran into the JF in June 2006 when I covered what became a”courtesy hearing” on Ohio HB 228 for the Columbus Free Press. The bill, an early attempt to ban all abortion in Ohio, was so far out that even the most fetus-worshipping politicians, dumped on it. After all, who wants to pass a law that would send taxi and Greyhound drivers who transport Ohio women across the state line to secure an abortion to jail? Or shouldn’t I ask?
During the hearing, The Justice Foundation presented a 2000-signature petition from women claiming they had been forced or coerced into abortion and been permanently traumatized. Operation Outcry’s Ohio Director testified that she was “manhandled’ by nurses and doctors at a Florida clinic after she demanded they stop the procedure halfway through. Even Republicans eye-rolled.
I emailed Heather Burner, president of the National Safe Haven Alliance regarding Covid.19 She told me that there has been a slight increase in the number of calls to the NSHA Hotline, but not all of them were women inquiring about the program. They are instead, seeking information on resources to help them parent, or to set up an adoption plan. NSHA, in fact, has expanded its program to assist parents in Safe Haven crisis to access assistance. “We want to help support the decision to parent and ensure that any other choice is not based on lacking resources,” Burner wrote, “so we work to connect and provide the resources in order for the parent to make an informed decision.” About 60% of the women who call end up either keeping their babies or working out an adoption plan.
The Justice Foundation, of course, has no interest in maintaining families unless they adhere to strict evangelical guidelines. Parker’s baby dump arguments are rooted in forced birth, misogyny, economics, class, race, religiosity, and baby commodification. It’s soft eugenics. JF’s weird emphasis on Safe Haven as a free government service is something I have not seen in any Safe Haven or even Baby Box promotions, or in personal convos with Safe Haven organization advocates who are very uncomfortable with that idea, though JF has been flogging this point for over 15 years. It’s a creepy evangelical redistribution -of- wealth grift. I have, however, seen adoption agencies market this idea to prospective birthmothers. Adoption. Try it. It’s free!
We have no idea if anyone has taken the Justice Foundation up on its offer, and since everything Safe Haven is a big secret, we won’t know. Using scare tactics and bribery to pressure and manipulate women to utilize Safe Haven in a season of pandemic (or any other season) is the other side of pressuring women to get abortions. Both send the message that the third party messenger-with-an-agenda believes women are incapable of thinking for themselves or of motherhood in any rational manner.
First published in The Daily Bastardette on June 18, 2020