Safe Havens: Saving Teen Moms

A teenager in Brooklyn, N.Y., is being investigated after her dead newborn was found in her bedroom. If she had known about her options, could she have saved herself and her baby?

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The baby didn't have a chance. Monday evening, police found a newborn infant, lifeless, in a plastic bag near his 14-year-old mother's bed after the teen, bleeding from having given birth, was rushed to the emergency room Monday morning. Her parents say that they didn't know she was pregnant.

Pending an investigation, this mother could be facing criminal charges for neonaticide, which is killing a baby within 24 hours of its birth. It is common among teen mothers, according to the New York Times: "Experts on neonaticide say mothers who kill their newborns are usually young, unmarried, emotionally isolated and often still living with their parents. Most are in too deep denial about their pregnancies, and remain so even after their babies are born. They give birth alone and secretly, usually over a toilet, and kill their babies moments after birth."

In the case of this Brooklyn, N.Y., teen, her life is changed forever. The 14-year-old may face manslaughter charges, and then there's the psychological damage that comes with the entire ordeal. 

The saddest part of it all is that there are services and safe-haven laws that would have allowed that young mother to drop her baby off somewhere safe or have someone come and pick up the baby. The mother could have walked away -- no questions asked. 

When I called Timothy Jaccard of the AMT Children of Hope Foundation recently, he was in the middle of arranging the rescue of an abandoned baby. He said that it was his third baby rescue of the day.

Jaccard's organization was started by a group of ambulance medical technicians on Long Island, N.Y., after a series of cases of infanticide in their area had taken an emotional toll. Now the organization's reach is national. It arranges for the burial of the bodies of abandoned or unclaimed infants. It also helps save the lives of abandoned infants and serves as a safe haven to accept newborns.

Jaccard shared how he recently helped a young mother who was giving birth at home. "She called 911 but would not give her address," he said. "911 patched her through to me, and I talked her through the delivery over the phone. I convinced her to let EMTs come and pick up the baby."

Lorde-Rollins added that because these teens are hiding their pregnancies, they don't get vital prenatal care or even monitor their own health in order to protect their growing babies.

Like many facilities around the country, the Adolescent Health Center provides free and confidential services, including counseling and health care. Safe-haven laws and services are nothing new, but there is still a huge need to raise awareness.

There are many who take issue with educating teenagers about post-pregnancy options because they think it absolves teenagers from facing the full consequences of having a baby and, more important, of having sex. But the fact is, teenagers are having sex. And you can teach abstinence instead of explicit sex education all day long -- young girls are still going to get pregnant. Just ask Sarah Palin.

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