One of the main selling points for Safe Haven Baby Boxes has been that there is no cost to taxpayers. Safe Haven Baby Boxes Inc proudly ballyhoo-hoos that the boxes are paid for by financial donations and in-kind support from local businesses, churches, civic organizations, fraternal orders, non-profits, and individuals. With a few small kinks this has been the rule since 2015, and one that is hammered into every state government hearing and local sales spiel to city councils, fire departments, hospitals, and a media that never asks questions. Baby Boxes are promoted as “a free service” “sponsored by concerned citizens.
Now comes New Mexico Senator David Gallegos (R) and Leo Jaramillo (D) with bills to foist off the cost of boxes onto the taxpayer,(SB168/HB157), with an appropriation of $330,000 to buy a box to place in all 33 counties and another $70,000 for promotion and education. (Teaching your 12-year-old how to stick a baby in a box so you’ll never know). The Associated Press reported (picked up by other media) that the appropriation is $1 million, but there is nothing in the bills that hit that mark. (Should we expect an amendment to boost more out of the taxpayer purse?) The boxes cost about $16,000 each, which comes to $528,000 Since Espanola is about to officially open a self-funded/donated box, without a state law, that takes it down to $512,000. Groupon anyone?
Safe Haven Baby Boxes Inc bills itself as a “Christian” ministry. So to add insult to injury—and a topic for another day—the taxpayers of New Mexico are expected to front the cash for a religious project.
Does New Mexico have a baby dump problem?
Well, according to figures published by Safe Haven Baby Box, Inc, (August 2, 2021) itself, the answer is NO. Since 2017 three cases have been documented. Two in 2019 (one of them in Espanola, which explains the interest there) and another this year. It’s the January 2 case in Hobbs that has the boxers in an uproar. Alexis Avila, 18, was caught red-handed on surveillance video tossing her newborn son in a dumpster. Fortunately, the baby, now named Saul, was discovered 6 hours later by three dumpster divers and survived. He now lives with his father, Stephen Astorga, 16, and Astorga’s parents who say they intend to apply for custody. Avila is on house arrest after posting a $50,000 bond. She claims she didn’t know that she was pregnant, but friends disagree. Stephen Astorga says Avila told him months ago that she’d had a miscarriage. Feelings run high in Hobbs, against Avila; thus fueling the baby box impetus. Thanks, Alexis!
Since 2020, New Mexico legislators have attempted to push through SHBB bills without funding and without success, the bills dying in committee. Avila’s auspicious dump has changed that causing a Build Better Bill with the substantial funding precedent.
But where does that leave SHBB Inc’s community-building evangelistic heathen-harvesting marketing tool? Sure, it can free up the organization for more work in other places where states aren’t so free with other people’s money, but it sort of guts the moral core of community outreach and support. SHBB Inc’s fake libertarian bootstrap lays in the dust. Notably, while this rah-rah tax gouge is going on in New Mexico, Ashe County, North Carolina, putting a box in without a law, seems not only to oppose state funding but also Big Donors. According to the Ashe County Post & Times, Sheriff B. Phil Howell says, “The idea is that we don’t want sponsors. We want this to be a donation and fundraising process.”
Of course, the irony (or not) in all this is that New Mexico lawmakers can’t be bothered to restore the civil right of its adopted class to obtain their original birth certificates and their other state-held adoption records. The state sealed OBCs 71 years ago when Harry Truman was president, and only allows adoptees who grovel hard and long before a judge, who in a serious pinch, might release it for “good cause” whatever that means. I have no record that there has been any attempt there, at least in the last couple of decades, to undo this unconstitutional travesty, though surely somebody must have tried it sometime.
Espanola’s assistant fire chief John Wickersham says he is a big fan of SHBB because he’s adopted. He’d like to meet his birthmother someday and thank her for “making the right decision. For what? Not killing him? He doesn’t get that he can’t do that due to his state’s reactionary law and lawmakers and that adoptees stuck in a box-in-the-wall have an even smaller chance at it.
Ultimately, New Mexico legislators play delirious to spend half a million dollars to maintain secret pregnancy, relinquishment, and adoption, which will cement even more adoptees in the state’s dirty little secret space.
But who cares? Just shut up and be grateful.
As of this writing, HB157 is leading the race. On February 9, it passed the House Appropriations and Finance Committee and is waiting for a floor vote, which should happen in the next few days. For more information on this bill and others go to the Bastard Nation Legislative page.
Originally published in The Daily Bastardette on February 14, 2022.