Safe haven laws are laws that allow any person statutorily defined by law, usually parents, to abandon an unharmed newborn baby at any location permitted by law. Safe haven laws were enacted in response to an increased number of infant abandonment and infanticide. Texas, in 1999, enacted the first Baby Moses or safe haven law. Safe haven laws are also known as Baby Moses law, Safe Place law, Safe Arms for Newborns law, Safe Delivery law, or Safe Surrender law depending upon the state in which they are enacted. Safe haven laws vary by state and they are known by different names in various states.
In the U.S., almost all the states have safe haven laws that allow parents or statutorily defined persons to relinquish their newborns at any safe location authorized by the statute. Safe haven laws offer various protections to the newborn and the person relinquishing the newborn. However, the abandonment should be according to the governing laws to avail protections guaranteed. Safe haven laws generally allow the parent, or an agent of the parent, to remain anonymous. Often, a numbered bracelet system remains the only link between the newborn and its parent. Safe haven laws shield the parent or agent of the parent from prosecution for abandonment or neglect.
Relinquishment of a newborn is legal only if the relinquished newborn is within the age limit permitted by state laws. Age limit for surrendering a newborn to a safe haven location vary from state to state. Some states place the maximum age of an infant that can be relinquished as three days; whereas, there are states that have extended the age limit to one year.
All safe haven statutes specifically provide where a baby may be relinquished. Some state laws allow a newborn to be handed to a doctor or church, and others mention specific places in the hospital such as an emergency room with a nurse where the newborn may be abandoned. Commonly, hospitals, manned fire house, on duty police stations, church, adoption agencies, and health care providers are considered to be safe locations. However, newborn abandonment will be legal only if it is in accordance with the concerned state laws.