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the Baby Moses Project

Background & Purpose

In 1999, a national spotlight was focused on a problem that deserves the attention of all those who are concerned for the well being of the most vulnerable in our society. Everyday countless women around the world face the reality of an unplanned pregnancy. A small number of these women hide or deny the fact that they are pregnant. They have not confided in family or friends, and have not reached out to any number of the crisis pregnancy or adoption services that are available to them. These women carry their babies to term, give birth in secret and then, out of fear, shame, confusion, desperation, or sometimes selfishness, they abandon their newborn baby in some out of the way place - leaving their child to die - hoping that the pregnancy will never be discovered.

Unfortunately, very few people across the Lone Star State are aware that this heart-wrenching scenario is occurring more and more. The reason, Texas like most states does not keep statistics specific to this problem. Until recently, the issue of newborn abandonment has gone virtually unnoticed. However, since state Representative Geanie W. Morrison, R-Victoria, passed the country's first Baby Moses legislation, all 50 states have taken notice, enacting similar laws to address this tragic problem.

It is unfortunate, but it may never be known exactly how many newborns are abandoned every year. A statistic that is often quoted is a 1998 study in which 108 newborns were reported abandoned, and of those, 33 died. This study was conducted by surveying a relatively small number of newspapers, and it is important to recognize that to be counted, the newspaper had to be large enough to be included in the study, and the newborn had to be found. In other words, this number significantly under represents the severity and scope of the problem.

To combat the senseless loss of life, Rep. Morrison filed HB 3423 during the 76th Legislative Session. Rep. Morrison argued that by providing a responsible alternative to newborn abandonment, two lives could be saved. Not only would the legislation prevent a newborn from being abandoned in a perilous place, it would also protect a mother who was in a desperate situation. Working with the Senate sponsor Jane Nelson, HB 3423 was unanimously passed by both the House and Senate, and on June 6, 1999, then Governor George W. Bush signed the country's first newborn abandonment bill into law.

Due to Texas being the first state to file safe haven legislation, no funds were attached to publicize the change in the statute (allocating funds significantly reduces the chance a bill will get passed in the Texas Legislature). Therefore, Rep. Morrison and Dr. Richardson co-founded the Baby Moses Foundation to privately fund a public awareness/education campaign.

Again, with no previous attention having been focused on this issue, Rep. Morrison and Dr. Richardson had to start from the beginning. The Project began by forming focus groups comprised of a broad cross-section of the community affected by the Baby Moses Project. Members and supporters of the effort did not want to hastily throw together an ineffective campaign. Instead, members focused on the most effective way to disseminate information to a targeted audience. Since the Project's first public service announcement began airing, nearly 100 Texas newborns have been saved.

Project members recognize that it will be impossible to reach every desperate mother, but each desperate mother that they do reach makes the effort worth the work. In the beginning, members said that if they could save one newborn, the effort would be a success. Fortunately, it has been a success and they continue to see the benefits from around the country.

As with any effort there are critics of the safe haven laws. Bastard Nation, an organization established to oppose confidential adoption, has argued that the newborn will be forced to grow up without any knowledge of their medical history or biological parents. In response, project members and supporters of the Baby Moses law argue that it is better to have a baby safely delivered to an EMT with no medical history, than a baby found in a trash can with no medical history.

The second most prevalent argument is that these types of laws promote irresponsibility. However, supporters of the Baby Moses laws argue that, rape and incest aside, the irresponsible act has already taken place when a mother becomes pregnant and cannot care for her child. Foundation members hope that by providing a viable option to newborn abandonment, the second decision that a mother makes will be a responsible one that in effect saves two lives.

The Baby Moses project supports all efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies and newborn abandonment. However, abstinence and education programs have been in place for years, and still there are stories about newborns being found in trash cans. Until a program is put into place that is 100% effective, project members believe that there is a responsibility to provide a safety net for the newborns that will unfortunately fall through the cracks of the "Just Say No to Sex" programs.

P.O. Box 4642, Victoria, Texas 77903, (361) 572-0196