How Roe ruling could affect baby safe haven drop-offs in Illinois

  • Dawn Geras, head of the nonpartisan Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, pictured at a 2011 event with children adopted under the Baby Safe Haven law. Geras said the impact of the safe haven law could be significant if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

    Dawn Geras, head of the nonpartisan Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, pictured at a 2011 event with children adopted under the Baby Safe Haven law. Geras said the impact of the safe haven law could be significant if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Morgan Hill

    Morgan Hill

 
 
Updated 5/4/2022 6:59 PM

The head of an Illinois organization that works to prevent the illegal and often deadly abandonment of newborns said that if abortion rights are going to be restricted, the safe haven impact of the law her group worked to pass could be significant.

"It just seems if women don't feel they have an option, I guess we would just pray that they would know that the baby safe haven law does exist, rather than leaving the baby exposed to an element and dying," said Dawn Geras, executive chair of the nonpartisan Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, which is based in Chicago and has board members across the suburbs, including Mount Prospect and Glenview.

 

With the possibility the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, Geras said there might be more talk about Illinois' Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act and similar laws in other states. At the same time, she said her organization walks "a very careful balance" on the charged abortion debate and doesn't take sides.

"We like to say the babies we're talking about have already been born, and we would like the support from both positions," Geras said. "It's nonpartisan, and it's about that innocent newborn baby. That baby's not a Democrat. It's not a Republican. It's just struggling to be alive."

In 1995, a newborn girl was abandoned in a dumpster behind Ascension St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates. Now an adult, Morgan Hill is a living advocate for national safe haven laws,

As Hill told ABC 7 Chicago on Wednesday, her mother "fed me and cleaned me but ended up putting me in a trash bag double knotted at the top and throwing me in a dumpster. A construction worker that was doing work on the hospital was throwing away debris, ended up finding me. He heard a little whimper, saw the bag move."

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Hill was adopted by family in Cary and eventually came to find out her story, meet her biological father and siblings, and even the construction worker who found her, ABC 7 reported

"It's been a blessing, it really has," Hill told ABC 7. "I had a phenomenal childhood. Great parents, great family. I wouldn't trade them for the world."

All 50 states have laws on the books allowing mothers to drop off infants at various public locations with no questions asked, but the permitted locales and maximum age of the child can vary drastically from state to state.

For instance, a young mom in Wisconsin -- where abortion could be banned if Roe v. Wade is overturned -- has only three days to leave an unharmed infant with a police officer, 911 emergency medical staffer or hospital staff member.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But she could cross the border to Illinois, where she has 30 days, and drop off her baby at many other locations, including police and fire stations.

"Since the law does promise anonymity, when a mom presents at a safe haven and says, 'I've got a baby I want to leave under this law,' they don't say, 'Well, what state do you live in?' No questions need to be answered, and there's no reason that she would have to say she was crossing a state border," Geras said.

Geras' comments came ahead of a news conference Wednesday outside Chicago Police Department headquarters, where the organization was to receive a donation from the Medinah chapter of 100 Women Who Care. She said the foundation plans to use the funds to purchase large bus shelter advertisements that promote the safe haven law.

Since the law took effect in Illinois in 2001, 149 infants have been safely relinquished. But during the same time, 90 babies were illegally abandoned -- and half of them died.

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