The "Baby Box" Provides A Way To Protect Abandoned Children

Photo: Michael Conroy/AP Images.
In April, the state of Indiana became the first in the nation to install climate-controlled “baby boxes,” where parents can safely and anonymously surrender children to authorities, according to The Washington Post.

Every state in America permits the abandonment of infants to the state with legislation referred to as “safe haven” laws, but Indiana is the first state in the nation to adopt the "baby boxes," which allow a parent to walk up to designated drop-off spots, open the small door, and deposit the infant inside a small climate-controlled chamber. A weight underneath the padded bed alerts emergency responders to come pick up the child.

Though Indiana's are the first in the United States, the boxes are more common in Europe and Asia. In South Korea, a baby box installed by Pastor Jong-rak Lee was the subject of a documentary called The Drop Box. In Europe, baby boxes common enough that the United Nations has commented on their proliferation, voicing concern that the hatches are in contradiction to the right of a child to know its parents, according to The Guardian.
In the United States, the box elicited similar controversy. According to The Indianapolis Star, the state first considered the boxes in 2015, but critics of the plan worried that it would encourage parents to abandon babies without considering other options. In November 2015, the state decided not to fund the installation of the boxes over concerns about cost and liability. Instead, Indiana’s Knights of Columbus stepped in to fund the first 100 boxes, which cost between $1,500 and $2,000 each.

Safe haven laws, also sometimes called “Baby Moses” laws, were first introduced in Texas in 1999 after more than a dozen dead babies were found in city trash bins. Over the next decade and a half, all 50 states enacted such laws. Indiana has had its law permitting surrender of babies less than 45 days old since 2001.

For women who are affected by unwanted pregnancies in the state, Indiana has fairly restrictive laws regarding abortion accessibility. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the state requires a counseling visit, ultrasound, and a waiting period of 18 hours to get an abortion. The state also forbids abortions after 20 weeks. Indiana forbids insurance to cover abortion, with exceptions to save the life or health of the mother, or in case of rape or incest.

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