In response to apparently rare but highly publicized instances in which infants have been abandoned and sometimes left to die, every state, beginning with Texas in 1999, has enacted a provision intended to provide a safe and confidential means of relinquishing an unwanted infant. These infant abandonment measures—also referred to as “safe haven” or “safe surrender” provisions—typically follow the Texas model and allow a parent or other specified party to relinquish an infant under certain circumstances without threat of prosecution for child abandonment. Variations include limits on an infant’s age (ranging from 72 hours to one year) and the places or personnel authorized to accept an infant (e.g., hospital emergency room staff or emergency services personnel [ESP], such as emergency medical technicians, firefighters or law enforcement officers). Some states explicitly guarantee parental anonymity; others require personnel accepting an infant to inquire into the infant’s medical history.
- 50 states and the District of Columbia have legalized relinquishing an infant up to a specified age.
- 19 states allow someone other than a parent (generally someone designated by a parent) to relinquish an infant.
- 35 states and the District of Columbia expressly preserve the anonymity of the person relinquishing an infant.
- 50 states and the District of Columbia designate the places or personnel authorized to accept an infant.
- 38 states authorize emergency services personnel (ESP) to accept an infant or allow relinquishment through the 911 emergency system.
- 46 and the District of Columbia states authorize health care providers (HCP), such as hospitals or health clinic employees, to accept an infant.
- 14 states allow an infant to be relinquished to some other organization, such as a licensed adoption agency or a specific facility designated by the state.
- 28 states and the District of Columbia require the person receiving the infant to follow a state approved protocol, including providing both the person leaving the infant and the infant with identification bracelets to aid with possible reunification, asking for medical information about the infant, and initiating an investigation to determine if the infant is registered as a missing child.
- United States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Monthly State Policy Updates
Get an overview of state legislative and policy activity in all topics of sexual and reproductive health.