Georgia Safe Haven law is 20 years old but newly relevant after abortion ruling

What Are Infant Safe Haven Laws?

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What Are Infant Safe Haven Laws?

‘Please call for help,’ says founder of Hope Box nonprofit

A law on the books for two decades is newly relevant now that Georgia’s abortion law is in effect.

Since 2002, Georgia’s Safe Haven Law has allowed mothers to leave their newborns at a safe haven facility with criminal immunity. The law was changed in 2017 increasing the number of days after birth to 30 and the number of safe haven facilities.

The law protects mothers from prosecution as long as they drop off their newborns within 30 days from their date of birth and hand them off to an authorized person at a fire station, police station or medical facility. The law does not require mothers to give any identifying information.

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Portrait of Sara Koeppen who is the Founder & Executive Director of The Hope Box, a nonprofit that helps to stop abandonment of newborns by reaching out to moms in crisis. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Portrait of Sara Koeppen who is the Founder & Executive Director of The Hope Box, a nonprofit that helps to stop abandonment of newborns by reaching out to moms in crisis. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Combined ShapeCaption
Portrait of Sara Koeppen who is the Founder & Executive Director of The Hope Box, a nonprofit that helps to stop abandonment of newborns by reaching out to moms in crisis. PHIL SKINNER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Sarah Koeppen founded The Hope Box, a nonprofit organization, in 2014 to aid in the effort. She expects the safe haven option to be used more frequently following the abortion legislation.

“We are working correcting some of the documentation so we can get better statistics on safe haven, which is different than abandonment,” said Koeppen, who hopes to increase awareness. “One of the things that need to happen is the information needs to get out to the moms, don’t put your baby in a dumpster. Please call for help. We are not an adoption agency, we are not DFCS but we can definitely come to the side of you and help you through a situation and crisis.”

ExploreThe Hope Box: saving babies by reaching out to moms in crisi
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Firefighter Devin Gosier directs engine 30 back into Firehouse 30. Fire stations, police stations and medical facilities are considered safe haven facilities.

Credit: John Spink

Firefighter Devin Gosier directs engine 30 back into Firehouse 30. Fire stations, police stations and medical facilities are considered safe haven facilities.

Credit: John Spink

Combined ShapeCaption
Firefighter Devin Gosier directs engine 30 back into Firehouse 30. Fire stations, police stations and medical facilities are considered safe haven facilities.

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

Area agencies including the Atlanta Police Department and the Gwinnett County Fire Department reported few if any instances of the save haven law being used, but trains its officers to know what to do should the time come.

What is Georgia’s Safe Haven Law?

The law was enacted in 2002 and amended in 2022. Under the Safe Place for Newborns Act, the law gives criminal immunity to a mother who leaves her baby with a staff member or volunteer at a safe haven facility if the child is no more than 30 days old.

Safe haven facilities in Georgia include medical facilities, hospitals, fire stations and police stations.

What happens to the baby?

The person who receives the baby is required to immediately notify the Department of Human Services Division of Family and Children Services by calling Georgia’s 24/7 toll-free child protective services hotline at 1-855-422-4453.

How many babies have been surrendered under Georgia’s Safe Haven law?

The Hope Box estimates more than 4,000 nationwide. There is no official data available in Georgia to show how many newborns are been surrendered under Georgia’s Safe Haven law.

What are safe haven baby boxes?

Baby boxes are temperature-controlled bins installed at safe haven drop-off locations. According to Safe Haven Baby Boxes, there are more than 100 baby boxes nationwide in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida and New Mexico.