Friday, January 18, 2013
A Wichita Police Department investigation into the death of a newborn baby girl believed to have been left in an east Wichita trash dumpster after her 17-year-old mother gave birth to her sometime last week has brought Kansas' safe haven law into focus.
The law has been on the books in Kansas since 2006. It is designed to allow troubled mothers to give up their newborn babies safely without being prosecuted.
"They can notify staff at a hospital or law enforcement, who can get them resources," said Wichita Police Lt. Dough Nolte.
The safe haven law allows a woman to take her newborn to a hospital, a health department or a fire station within 45 days of being born. As long as the baby has not been harmed, the mother does not have to fear prosecution.
Sadly, there are no known instances of the law being used to avoid tragedy. In one recent case, 26-year-old Christina Devine of Emporia was sentenced in August to 13 years in prison. She was convicted of attempted murder after leaving her newborn son in a dumpster in October 2010.
Nolte urges mothers who may feel trapped or who do not think they can properly care for their newborns to use the safe haven law.
"We certainly don't want anyone to feel trapped," he said.