Nebraska’s safe-haven law works — too well

posted at 1:40 pm on October 9, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

When Nebraska passed a law that allowed panicked mothers to abandon their babies at hospitals with immunity from prosecution, many hailed it as a breakthrough in helping to keep unwanted infants alive.  Now it looks more like a poster child for bad legislation.  Thanks to a lack of specificity in the law, parents have begun dumping troublesome teenagers at hospitals, and crossing state lines to do it (via Q&O):

Frustrated parents are dumping their teenagers at Nebraska hospitals — even crossing state lines to do it — and the state Legislature has scheduled a special hearing to try to stem the tide.

Nebraska’s “safe haven” law, intended to allow parents to anonymously hand over an infant to a hospital without being prosecuted, isn’t working out as planned.

Of the 17 children relinquished since the law took effect in July, only four are younger than 10 — and all four are among the nine siblings abandoned by a man September 24 at an Omaha hospital.

On Tuesday, a 14-year-old girl from Council Bluffs, Iowa, was abandoned at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, just across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs. The case marks the first time a parent has crossed state lines to abandon a teenager in Nebraska, authorities said.

All 50 states now have safe-haven laws, but only the Nebraska legislature didn’t put an age limit on the mechanism.  Now, the law intended to save infants has never been used for that purpose.  Instead, most of the children abandoned are troubled teenagers, and the state has a big problem on its hands.

Badly-written laws create far more mess than they solve, even when the underlying intent is admirable.  No one doubts the need to act to protect infants that had been previously tossed away by irrational mothers, but Nebraska botched its safe-haven law.  The ADA was another piece of legislation that started with good intentions but quickly got distorted into a trial-lawyer’s dream, as the definition of “disability” grew to include addiction and other conditions.  Many other examples exist.

Usually, it is better to avoid legislation that to use it to solve social problems.  Occasionally, as here, it often creates a slew of new problems.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Objection!
Morality does not require religion.

Your misconception here comes from the fact that, for the most part, religion requires morality. As such, the immoral will often reject religion.

However, there are a number of us that were raised with a strong morality in the absence of religion.

So, please, let us focus on the immoral ones. It is their irresponsibility that causes these problems.

Count to 10 on October 9, 2008 at 2:22 PM

Morality does not require religion, it’s true. But a truly naturalistic universe is amoral, and thus holds no universal moral truth. Hence in a naturalistic world, no single individual’s moral code is more “valid” than another’s. At that point, things get most decidedly Darwinian.

TheUnrepentantGeek on October 9, 2008 at 4:18 PM

This is just like the bail out…No personal responsibility. Can’t make my house payment, I just send in the keys and leave, can’t raise my kid, dump them off for someone else to worry about. However, it is better than murdering them. What I am concerned about is that they are left at the hospital and then the kids get assigned to some sort of Obama Indoctrination camp (run by Bill Ayers) and the become little radical socialists.

mindhacker on October 9, 2008 at 4:57 PM

Solyent Green.

Glynn on October 9, 2008 at 4:59 PM

Solyent Green.

Glynn on October 9, 2008 at 4:59 PM

Soylent Green. Sorry.

Glynn on October 9, 2008 at 5:00 PM

Badly written laws? Do you know a single congress critter that has read the 400+ bail out bill for unintended consequences? The devil is in the fine print!

TimothyJ on October 9, 2008 at 5:35 PM

I mouthed off to my mom when I was a teenager once. She decked me.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on October 9, 2008 at 1:49 PM

Mine used shame.

misterpeasea on October 9, 2008 at 2:14 PM

I got both, and deserved most of it; without it I’d be in jail or worse. With it I got a PhD. Sparing the rod does indeed spoil the child, and man do we have a bunch of spoiled brats, and adults as well.

I think its great! Your little teenage punk bad mouthes off to you about this or that, you give him a good spanking, like my folks did to me, throw this little article in their faces and say, “Read this while we take a little drive to Omaha! Don’t worry, I hear the State of Nebraska lets you have meat on Christmas!”.

This law MUST have been written by Obama voters; no one else is this stupid!!!

Bubba Redneck on October 9, 2008 at 6:06 PM

Badly written articles fail to define what a ‘troubled’ child or teenager is.

Take a deep breath, and try again.

Ares on October 9, 2008 at 7:01 PM

Comment pages: 1 2