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Safe Haven law decriminalizes leaving newborn at certain places

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Virginia has a Safe Haven law that decriminalizes leaving an unharmed newborn at legally designated places.

A recent case of an infant abandoned in a wooded area in York County continues to grab attention. The baby girl, less than a week old, was wrapped only in a towel and left in the woods.

Thankfully someone passing by heard the child and rescued her, before it was too late. This latest story floored Lisa Shrader.

The mom and grandmother said that when she heard it on the news, it brought to mind the case of an abandoned infant found in a paper bag near a Chesterfield bus stop.

Shrader said her heart goes out to the moms that feel like they have no other option than to dump a newborn baby.

“They may not have a mom to turn to for help,” she said.” I imagine they’re confused and don't know what to do.”

She said stories like that always pull her heartstrings. Especially given that Virginia has a Safe Haven law that allows a mom or relative to drop off a baby that’s fourteen days old or less to any emergency room, fire house or rescue squad that has twenty-four hour personnel.

Chief Nursing Officer, Ben Warner said that anyone in the child’s family can drop the child off at any emergency room in the Commonwealth without fear of being prosecuted.

“Our hospital staff will care for the baby and place it with a state agency or a family who will care for the child “Warner said.

Warner also said that none of the Henrico Doctor’s hospitals have ever taken in a newborn under the Safe Haven law. Neither have any of our local Bon Secours hospitals.  

“It’s not an easy way out for moms who are in a desperate situation,” said Shrader. “It shows their maturity level and that they're responsible enough to take a child somewhere that it can be taken care of.”