Ignorance is not bliss

Ignorance of a state law designed to protect women and their newborn children could have resulted in tragedy last Sunday night.

A 21-year-old Oahu resident gave birth to a girl on a beach, then took it to Queen’s hospital claiming she had found the abandoned baby. Two days later officers announced that she was indeed the infant’s mother and charged her with filing a false police report.

The mother has not been charged with neglect or abandonment.

Since 2007, Hawaii has had what is known as a “Safe Haven Law.” This law allows a parent to leave an unharmed baby at a hospital, fire station or police station within 72 hours of the infant’s birth.

HB1830 reads, in part:

“The purpose of this Act is to establish a safe haven for newborns and provide for their future health and safety by:

1. Providing immunity from prosecution for persons leaving an unharmed newborn at a hospital, fire station, or police station, or with emergency medical services personnel;

2. Providing immunity from liability to the hospital, fire station, police station, or personnel who receive the newborn; and

3. Requiring personnel to make a reasonable effort to obtain certain information pertaining to the child, including the family’s medical history, from the person leaving the child.”

The intent obviously is to reach out to emotionally distraught new parents so babies will not be harmed or abandoned.

The author of the law, Rep. John Mizuno, says it should be posted prominently in those “safe haven” places. We’d go further – it should be posted, and taught, in high school health classes. Teenagers with unwanted pregnancies need to know about this law.

It is interesting that although the law is 6 years old, no one has ever invoked it. Scared young parents need to be made aware that Hawaii is committed to helping them protect their baby.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.