Iowa lawmakers are discussing the expansion of the 2001 Safe Haven law, which would allow parents to confidentially give up children up to 12 months old.
Discussions of Iowa's Safe Haven law are still fresh in mind from last month's tragedy, in which a Huxley woman was accused of killing her newborn twins. The deaths brought newfound attention to Safe Haven, particularly the need to raise awareness about the law to new mothers.
The Safe Haven law extension being discussed by legislators wouldn't have changed the circumstances in the Huxley case.
Jackie Nichole Burkle, 22, of Huxley, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder for allegedly killing her newborn twin babies in January. The infants were well under the 14 day old window currently provided for under the Safe Haven law. The charging documents said that Burkle appeared to be pregnant on Jan. 5 and no longer appeared so on Jan. 7.
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Currently infants up to 14 days old can be left at any healthcare facility confidentially. Parents don't even have to give their names if they don't want to.
Iowa Politics reported that Iowa is one of 49 states that have some form of a Safe Haven law. In the neighboring state of Nebraska, a July 2008 law allowed parents to give up minor children of all ages. Under the law, parents abandoned 35 children --- the majority teenagers --- in 4 months. The law was limited that same year to allow legal abandonment for babies, one month or younger.
More than a dozen infants have been legally abandoned in Iowa since 2001. The law was a reaction to the story of baby Chelsea, a newborn infant found dead near a water tower in a small Iowa town in February 2001.
Melinda Wadsley, of Ames, a therapist of Okerberg & Associates, cannot speculate on the Huxley case, but said parents and expecting parents have several counseling services to choose from in Ames. Several churches provide counseling as well, she said.
The Story County Storks Nest for example helps at-risk women during their pregnancy with educational classes, encourages parents to seek prenatal care and healthy behavior and provides access to baby clothing, nursery supplies and equipment, Wadsley said.