Safe abandonment laws needed in Canada: U.S. district attorney
As the story of a Saskatoon teen who left her baby on a doorstep in freezing weather continues to unfold, there are calls for Canada to adopt "safe abandonment" laws.
John Tyson Jr., the U.S. district attorney who spearheaded introduction of such a law in Alabama, says Canada should make it safer for women to abandon their babies.
Forty-seven U.S. states have legislation allowing a mother to take her baby to a safe location such as a hospital or police station and leave it there with no questions asked.
Tyson, who's the district attorney for Mobile County, said the Saskatoon case, where an 18-year-old described by police as isolated and confused left her baby outside in –29 C weather, strikes a chord with him.
The baby, bundled in blankets, was discoveredwithin afew minutesand is now in good condition in hospital, while the mother has stepped forward and has told her story to police. Police haven't saidwhether charges will be laid.
The safe abandonment law in Alabama had its inception in a casethere that hada more tragic outcome.
In 1998, the Mobile County district attorney's office prosecuted a mother and grandmother of murder after they drowned a newborn in a toilet.Both were convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The mother was desperate and had nowhere to turn, Tyson said. The case got him thinking about how to prevent similar tragedies, leading to the creation of the Secret Safe Place Program.
"A mother can bring to any of our emergency rooms a newborn," he said. "If the newborn's unharmed, we won't ask her any questions. We will tell her 'thank you' and we will take the baby from her arms and take care of the baby from there."
Tyson says the mother is offered counselling and medical treatment if she wants. She can also ask to be reconnected with her baby once she's received help.
"If a mother is telling us that she is so desperate that the only thing she can do is abandon a baby or leave the baby at a hospital, what we've learned to do is take her at her word and react to it," he said. "Far better that we do that than go clean up a homicide scene."
Tyson says 14 babies in Alabama have been rescued in the nine years the program has been in place.