Lifestyle

Should Texas Adopt the Use of Baby Boxes to Save Unwanted Infants?

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In 1999, the state of Texas was the first to pass the Safe Haven Law. In the U.S., abandoning a baby is illegal, but if the baby is placed into safe hands (normally within the first few days of infancy), this law decriminalizes that act. Following in Texas’ footsteps, all the other 49 states also passed the law. Since 2004, records from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reveal that 131 babies have been handed over under the law. What might be the key to ensuring more such drop-offs are done safely could be baby boxes located on the side of a fire station. With space enough for a parcel of medium-size, a baby box is targeting those in desperate need of leaving their baby in safekeeping.

States are now adopting the baby box to facilitate the safe drop-off and retrieval of babies. They’re outfitted with sensors and regulators to monitor temperature, and when a baby is set inside, emergency services are notified via silent alarm. Subsequently, the baby can be retrieved in under five minutes. Priscilla Pruitt, employed by Safe Haven Baby Boxes, said that such tools are “a last resort,” and she continues to campaign for their use across the U.S. In an effort to fight infanticide, these boxes could mean life or death for a newborn child with desperate parents. “Abandonment is a problem,” Pruitt told bbc.com. “These young women don’t want to be known or seen. Especially in small towns where everyone knows everyone.”

Should Texas Adopt the Use of Baby Boxes to Save Unwanted Infants?

Photo: Instagram/safehavenbox1

However, some rights groups who advocate for fathers have objections. They say the baby box allows for only one parent to make that choice—the mother. The United Nations has also opposed their use in various parts around the world.

Although the baby box only came on the American scene in 2016, the idea isn’t new. It’s actually something that dates back to medieval times, when they were first termed “foundling wheels.” Back then, they were designed as cylindrical barrels which were kept on the exteriors of churches, hospitals, and orphanages. Over time, the idea has seen a small resurgence, not the least of which is happening in the U.S.

Should Texas Adopt the Use of Baby Boxes to Save Unwanted Infants?

Photo: Instagram/pamstenzel

For now, as a result of the requirement for legislation by individual state permitting a baby box, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are the first to get on board. New Jersey is in the process of introducing them, and Georgia also has legislation in progress. With respect to their effectiveness, Safe Haven Baby Boxes has noted that the proof lies in usage. Since April 2016, they’ve noted their baby boxes have been used three times, which means the survival of three infants that might not have otherwise survived. Will Texas adopt the use and access of a baby box system? That remains to be seen. For now, this is one alternative to a situation which might otherwise result in a baby in a dumpster, or worse. The consequences of doing nothing may far outweigh the opportunity to make use of a baby box.