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Giving Up Baby

Giving Up Baby

Safe Haven Laws, Motherhood, and Reproductive Justice

by Laury Oaks
Publication Date: 05/06/2015
"Baby safe haven" laws, which allow a parent to relinquish a

newborn baby legally and anonymously at a specified institutional location-such

as a hospital or fire station-were established in every state between 1999 and

2009. Promoted during a time of heated public debate over policies on abortion,

sex education, teen pregnancy, adoption, welfare, immigrant reproduction, and

child abuse, safe haven laws were passed by the majority of states with little

contest. These laws were thought to offer a solution to

the consequences of unwanted pregnancies: mothers would no longer be

burdened with children they could not care for, and newborn babies would no

longer be abandoned in dumpsters.

Yet while these laws are well meaning, they ignore the real problem: some

women lack key social and economic supports that mothers need to raise

children. Safe haven laws do little to help disadvantaged women. Instead,

advocates of safe haven laws target teenagers, women of color, and poor women

with safe haven information and see relinquishing custody of their newborns as

an act of maternal love. Disadvantaged women are preemptively judged as "bad"

mothers whose babies would be better off without them.

Laury Oaks argues that the labeling of certain kinds of

women as potential "bad" mothers who should consider anonymously giving up

their newborns for adoption into a "loving" home should best be understood as

an issue of reproductive justice. Safe haven discourses promote narrow images

of who deserves to be a mother and reflect restrictive views on how we should

treat women experiencing unwanted pregnancy.
Publication Date:
New York University Press
Country of origin:
United States
Dimensions (mm):

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