Monday, November 03, 2008
Got any spare kids? Nebraska's Safe Haven Law
In all this pre-election hype, I haven't had time to write about Nebraska's latest claim to fame. No, I'm not talking about the Cornhuskers' embarrassing loss to Oklahoma on Saturday night. That would require the football team to be relevant to someone who doesn't live in this state. Nebraska has been getting national attention for another reason: our safe haven law.
Safe haven laws are not big news. Before we enacted ours, Nebraska was one of the only states in the union without such a law. Safe Haven Laws generally make sense. The idea is that you can leave a child at a hospital or fire department instead of getting an abortion or leaving the baby in a dumpster. Sounds like a good thing right?
To say that Nebraska became a victim of unforeseen consequences is being overly generous to the lawmakers in our state. While most states have an age limit that restricts the age of the child that can be abandoned to infants, Nebraska did not include an age limit in their law. The result has been a steady flow of parents from all over the country leaving their kids at Nebraska hospitals, including teenagers up the 17 years-old. None of the children left in Nebraska since July have been under 22 months. Oops. A 15 year-old left at an Omaha hospital tonight makes the 28th person left at a hospital since July.
Lawmakers are working quickly to impose a 72 hour age limit on the Nebraska law, but until the limit becomes law, Nebraska has become the land of unwanted children.