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LAURIE ROBERTS

A newborn is found dead beside a dumpster and I have to wonder, did we do enough?

Opinion: Arizona has a Safe Haven Law, but what good is it if young mothers don't know they can safely give up their newborns?

Laurie Roberts
Arizona Republic
Infant found unresponsive behind south Phoenix business.

Heartbreaking news in Phoenix on Thursday. Phoenix police rushed to the scene of a south Phoenix strip mall, hoping to save an injured child.

Instead, they found a dead newborn.

A baby, born and left to die, and I have to wonder.

Did the mother know that she had options?

There isn’t much that we know about this child, only that the infant was “a very new born baby”. 

And that salvation was just a few blocks away.

Did the mother know?  Did we do enough to tell her?

Arizona's Save Havens run under the radar

In 2001, the Arizona Legislature passed a Safe Haven Law, offering desperate mothers an alternative to abandoning their newborns and leaving them to die.

The law says you can anonymously give up your baby in the first 72 hours — no questions asked — as long as the child has not been harmed. You can take it to a hospital, a fire station, certain churches or other designated places marked with a Safe Haven sign.

You can call the Arizona Safe Baby Haven Foundation’s 24-hour hotline – 1-866-707-2229 – and ask for help.

Of course, in typical legislative fashion, our leaders declined to put up any money to make sure the word got out to the young girls and women who desperately need to hear it. I guess they thought it would encourage promiscuity.

As a result, dozens of babies have turned up dead over the years despite Arizona’s Safe Haven Law. They’re stashed in dumpsters in Glendale and left in portable toilets in Chandler and even in the bathroom of an Amazon warehouse in west Phoenix. They’re dropped into the trash at gas stations in Scottsdale and some are likely never found.

And some, miraculously, are saved, because someone knew about Safe Haven.

And yet, 40 children have been saved

Forty Arizona children have been surrendered under the state’s Safe Haven Law.  I met one of them once, a 21-month-old girl named Emily, who was surrounded by love. She had a birth mother who had the courage and the heart to give her up rather than throw her away, dressing her in a pink jumper and wrapping her in a towel and taking her to a Catholic church in central Phoenix.

Emily now has an adoptive family to whom she is a gift from God. She should be about 12 years old now.

This child, found dead on Thursday afternoon beside a trash dumpster near 35th Avenue and Baseline Road, was no less a gift.

We don’t yet know much about this baby. What we do know is that there is no excuse that she — or he — was thrown away like so much garbage.

Might this child have been No. 41?

Did we do enough to let the mother know that she had options? How much money would it take, I wonder, to spread the word?

If a law exists and nobody knows about it …

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com.