Texans Ignore Baby Abandonment Law
In Six Months, Nine Newborns Illegally Discarded
In the six months since Texas provided mothers with a legal method of abandoning unwanted newborns, the law has gone unused as nine babies have been abandoned statewide, according to state records.
Two of the newborns were found in Dumpsters, said Marla Sheely, spokeswoman for the Texas Department for Protective and Regulatory Service, six were left at hospitals by mothers after giving birth, and one was abandoned in a hospital bathroom.
“Our statistics show that women are not using the law,” Sheely said. “But I question whether women are thinking clearly at the time they take this desperate action.”
The Texas law, passed Sept. 1, allows new mothers to anonymously give infants, up to 30 days old, to emergency medical technicians at firehouses or hospitals. Georgia’s Legislature recently passed a similar measure, and others like it are being considered in California, Minnesota and New York.
Spurred by Houston events
Texas lawmakers took up the issue after 13 babies were discarded in and around Houston during a 10-month period last year. Supporters, who say the law could save the lives of newborns who might otherwise be left to die, have posted billboards with the message, “Don’t Abandon Your Baby!” and a number for more information on the law.
Opponents argue that women desperate enough to consider abandoning their infants are unlikely to take advantage of such laws, and worry about parental rights and the babies’ medical records.
So far, the law has had little or no effect in Texas, something that has officials looking for answers.
“In Houston, there’s been quite a push to publicize the new law,” Sheely said. “The word may not have gotten out yet [statewide].”
All nine of the babies abandoned since the law went into effect survived and are either in foster care or in the custody of relatives. The six left safely in hospitals did not fall under the law because the mothers did not explicitly express their intent to medical personnel, Sheely said.