Nebraska recently passed legislation that allows parents to abandon unwanted children at a hospital—no questions asked—without threat of prosecution. The measure is intended to prevent mothers (and, occasionally, fathers) from leaving infants in public places where they risk death from exposure to the elements. Nebraska is the last state to pass a so-called “safe haven” law designating places such as hospitals or police departments where a parent can give up one or more children without risking jail time.
Unlike the laws passed in the other 49 states, where typically the child must be one month old or less, Nebraska’s measure imposes no age limit; infant and strapping teenager alike may be forfeited. As a result, Nebraska is turning into a national dumping ground for unwanted kids. Mothers and fathers eager to cull their herds have shown up from distant Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, and Iowa. In one busy 24-hour period in September, 11 children were deposited at local hospitals, including nine siblings left by a single father. One 16-year-old girl didn’t even know she was being abandoned. Concluding, sensibly, that the Nebraska law as written is disastrously broad, Gov. Dave Heineman has called for a special legislative session this month to cap at three days the age of lawfully abandoned children.
Since the safe-haven law went into effect on July 18, 27 children have been handed over to the Cornhusker State. A list of children abandoned in accordance with the Nebraska law, current as of this writing but sure to lengthen, appears below and on the following page.
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