By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
March 12, 2020
“Newborn found dead.” It’s among the saddest headlines imaginable. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, a person’s risk of homicide on his first day of life is 10 times greater than at any other time.
But thanks to a Safe Surrender Law passed in 2001, parents who are overwhelmed and desperate to conceal the fact that a child has been born can hand the baby over within the first seven days with no questions asked and no risk of abandonment charges. From the law’s inception through 2018 (latest available data), at least 54 infant lives have been saved, and that number could be much higher.
“There is a way birth certificates are supposed to be filled out in order to track safe-surrender infants,” explained Robert Lee, statistical services branch manger with the State Center for Health Statistics. “We do not believe there is a 100% compliance with this method, so Vital Statistics may have an under count.”
If even one baby has been saved, the law was well worth fighting for and should be regularly and widely promoted, according to the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. He worked alongside bill sponsor Phillip Haire, a 14-year veteran of the House who retired in 2012, to help ensure its passage.
Haire patterned the legislation after a similar bill in Alabama and was prompted to introduce it after the body of a Macon County infant was found in a landfill.
“Each time we hear on the news about an infant being left to die, I have to wonder if enough people know about or understand the Safe Surrender Law,” said the Rev. Creech. He pointed to a death now under investigation by police in Eden, where a baby was found dead in a hotel room.
Last fall, a 27-year-old Union County woman was charged after deputies said she wrapped her newborn son in a blanket and put him in a trash bag.
“The child would have been perfectly healthy and was alive when he was born,” Tony Underwood with the Union County Sheriff’s Office told the media at the time.
Had the mother simply turned the baby over to a responsible adult, his life could have been saved. She would not even have had to give her name.
The Safe Surrender law identifies health care workers, law enforcement officers, social workers or emergency medical personnel as qualified to receive an unwanted infant, but further allows that any responsible adult can fill the role of caring for the infant until he can be turned over to authorities.
“This is a wonderful law, but it only protects infants if the public is aware of it — not only desperate mothers who need to know they will not be charged, but also the general public must understand that receiving a surrendered newborn is legal,” said Dr. Creech. “Anyone handed a baby is simply required to keep the child safe and warm and to call 911 so the Department of Social Services can be notified and take over immediately.”
He urged pastors or other church leaders who share the pro-life message to include information about the state’s Safe Surrender Law.
Creech said the more people who are informed, the better chance for the word to spread to women who are desperate to conceal their pregnancies.
“Whatever the situation, these women need to know that once they’ve given birth, they don’t have to hide or harm that child, and they don’t have to fear that they will be arrested,” he said. “If they can’t care for the baby, surrendering him or her is truly an act of love, and the can do this anonymously. They need to know that their state supports them in this difficult decision and is trying to make it as simple as possible.”
Learn more about North Carolina’s Safe Surrender Law.