| Evgeny Atamanenko

Activist group on collision course with Indiana agencies over siting of baby boxes

An Indiana activist has vowed to defy authorities in the state over her group’s siting of boxes where troubled mothers can abandon their babies, anonymously.

Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, is on a collision course with state agencies for children and and health services.

Her group has placed two boxes at fire houses in the state, with the avowed aim of making sure desperate mothers do not simply dump their babies in an entirely unsafe environment.

And Kelsey said she is setting up a legal fund should any mothers be prosecuted for leaving their babies in the boxes. It is unlikely to happen and the Department of Children Services (DCS) has not explicitly said it would do so.

Kelsey also wants to broaden her campaign to establish baby boxes in other parts of the country.

Indiana, like many other states, has established safe haven laws where mothers can leave their babies at fire houses, police stations and hospitals.

But, apart from a handful of sites in Arizona, there are no other places in the country where the baby can be dropped off anonymously, with no interaction between the mother and emergency services.

That’s a problem, Kelsey says, citing figures her organization compiled that show 100 babies were abandoned in an unsafe environment in 2015, including at the door of fire houses.

As of 2016, 3,227 babies nationally were left with emergency service providers under safe haven laws, according to the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation.

But some want “complete anonymity,” said Kelsey, who described the use of the boxes as an absolutely “last resort.” Neither of the boxes has been used.

“There is simply no evidence to suggest the use of baby boxes is a safe or prudent way to surrender a child. For this reason, the installation of baby boxes is not a state-led or endorsed endeavor,” Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana DCS, and Dr. Jerome Adams, commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, said in a joint statement.

“Fundamentally, the Indiana Safe Haven law as it currently stands must be followed, because it is the best way to safely surrender an infant anonymously.”

Under Indiana’s safe haven law, an infant less than 30-days-old may be surrendered to a person who is an emergency medical services provider. This allows medical professionals to administer medical care if the infant has a medical emergency or needs basic medical attention.

But Kelsey said: “We are the only organization doing education on the safe haven law. The state, to promote awareness, has spent zero.” She believes the boxes are legal.

She mentions the case of one baby left March 30 at the door of a fire station in Indiana. It was 4 a.m. and the baby was there for more than hour before discovery. The cord was cut but not clamped, she said.

Kelsey, a prominent pro-life activist and public speaker, is informed by her own experience. She was born just prior to Roe v. Wade, and her mother initially planned a back street abortion.

Her mother changed her mind and left her at a hospital after giving birth, said Kelsey.