Ever feel like you’ve accidentally taken a ride in a time machine? I do.
Take Murray, Kentucky, ” The “most charming college town in Kentucky” is considering adding a Safe Haven Baby Box to its numerous attractions such as Doran Arboretum, Peddlers Mall, bison herds(!), and Murray State University.
Does Murray suffer a surfeit of abandoned babies? I don’t think so.
According to Safe Haven Baby Boxes’ own stats, (May 17. 2023) only 6 cases of discard were reported in the state in the last 6 years.* My own records, which I re-started archiving in 2021, indicate 1 genuine discard case and 2 possible cases depending on how you look at them. (1 where the cause of death was “undetermined” and the other a fetus found in a wastewater plant ). I did a quick Google search and didn’t find any discard cases in Murray, Four traditional safe haven drop-off cases, however, were reported in the town in the last 5 years, so something must be working. The “desperate” parents we hear about have either used the “safe haven option” are not so desperate (oh no!) that they will discard or kill their newborns, or (oh no!) keep them. That should be a cause for celebration…
But that’s not good enough for Stephanie Kelly, Executive Director of Life House Care Center. Although she is the immediate source of the safe haven Murray case stats, she claims more surrenders are “necessary” Is she trying to prove a negative? If no discard cases have been reported, and the traditional safe haven law working locally. Who should have gone into it? Who needs a baby box?
No one but Ms.Kelly!
A little less than a month ago, Kelly proposed to the city council that a box be placed in a fire, police, or EMS station. (No hospital?) Because…well, mothers need protection from the embarrassing and intrusive face-to-face interaction of a traditional safe haven surrender, although, under Kentucky law, those surrenders are held anonymous even if the identity of the parent(s) is known. Murray’s young “desperate mothers” of Murray don’t have a problem with that.
Kelly got downright syllogistic explaining to city lawmakers that Murray needs a Safe Haven Baby Box because Bowling Green, (104-119 miles northeast of Murray depending on the route you take) has reported two box drop-offs and just like Murray is a college town. Murray needs to catch up!
As you know, they’re a college town like we are, and so I feel that this city would greatly have a need for this…I can’t help but think of how many we have missed by not having one of these boxes. I feel like this is a win-win for our community. The box will be of no cost to the city, and I feel like this will just be another way to bring more awareness to the safe haven law and to offer women in crisis two safe options of how to surrender their child if that need arises.
In other words…
Oh, those college girls!
Just reading this news report makes me feel like I’ve been transported to the 1930s. I’m in the middle of a Lyle Talbott B movie. Or Reefer Madness. Drinking, smoking, dancing, petting parties, slick seducers in letter sweaters, seductive coeds in short skirts, wreckless roadsters, backseat sex, bleached hair, chewing gum, cheap mascara, turned up nose and rolled down hose, forbidden babies.
Since everything is merrily rolling along just fine in Murray, Kelly’s complaint sounds suspiciously like there just aren’t enough babies being given up for adoption in Murray and environs to her liking…and we can’t have that in this south Kentucky hothouse of college promiscuity.
After I looked up Life House, on the ‘net, I was more suspicious. Not surprisingly it’s a Crisis Pregnancy Indoctrination Center –oops I mean Pregnancy Care Center. I expected that, but the website is absent real information about what it does, outside of offering a friendly face to young ladies in distress with some abstract, but non-detailed services offered including court-ordered counseling. Even its list of staff and board members is just that: a list. Blank icons.
No bios. No educational or professional credentials or affiliations. Not for Kelly, not for the staff, not for the board, and not for the organization. It’s a blank slate, just like the babies Kelly hopes will collect in the baby box. What in the world qualifies Kelly & Co to herd young women and their babies into the life-long consequences of bad social policy and third-party evangelical zeal? Thank God SH/SHBB babies in Kentucky go through the state for placement. I don’t know if Life House is connected to a private adoption agency, but if it is, we all know where the product would be baby-washed if the law allowed.
Kelly’s LinkedIn page shows no credentials other than a certificate in Ministry 1.1 and 1.2 (whatever that means) from Mission Increase an outfit that teaches churches, ministries, and non-profits how to rake in big bucks. According to Life House’s 2022 990 form, (Guidestar with free registration) the ministry brought in $315,491 and held total assets of over half a million dollars.
The Life House website features a short section each on”abortion,” “adoption” and “parenting ” that gives little actual information on how those “pregnancy options” connect to Life House’ s mission, though we are sure abortion isn’t one of them. The organization, however, is part of the Earn While You Learn program found in hundreds of CPCs and maternity homes across the country. (BTW, Is Life House connected to a maternity home?) Like rescue homes in the Progressive Era over 100 years ago, the program offers “nice” pregnant women “real life skills” on how to be mothers and “creates openings for volunteer counselors to share Christ.”
The EWYL program sounds like a company store and is ripe for evangelical coercion: play the game and win the prize. How many lessons need to be completed to purchase a bag of disposable diapers?
When a client completes a lesson, they are rewarded with “Mommy Money.” When they return their homework, they receive more. They are then able to “shop” in the PRC Mommy Store for items they need. The store is normally stocked with donations of diapers, clothes for the baby and mother, cribs, new car seats and more. Many moms save their money for larger items and may even bring their husbands or boyfriends with them to learn and earn even more (this was the beginning of our Fatherhood Program).
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the “college girl” trope tossed out by a baby box pusher, but it is one of the most blatant. Are they on some list of speculative murderers? If a Safe Haven Baby Box is installed in Murray, will it be advertised as another local attraction? Better yet, will its presence assure parents that Murray State is a safe place for their daughters to attend and where no one will ever have to know if due to consensual sex or sexual assault, a baby can be hidden and life can go on without scandal or shame?
* In a strange development, newborn discard stats have been removed from the “new and improved” Safe Haven Baby Box website. These stats were available there for years, although the criteria for case determination were absent. What up with that?