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In Nebraska, Parents Can Leave Their Teens

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In Nebraska, Parents Can Leave Their Teens

U.S.

In Nebraska, Parents Can Leave Their Teens

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ALEX COHEN, host:

One option for mothers who feel they aren't able to properly raise a child is to surrender their infants anonymously. So-called safe-haven laws let moms give up their children at local hospitals, police and fire stations without legal consequence. They're intended as a way to save babies from grim fates. Pete Pircsh is a state senator in Nebraska.

State Senator PETE PIRSCH (Nebraska): 2004, a 2-day-old infant was abandoned in a canal near the Elkhorn River in Norfolk. The baby had been dead for about two days at the time it was discovered. In 2007, a woman found a baby boy abandoned in a tote bag between a trash bin and a discarded TV, and there are other incidents like that.

COHEN: This summer, Nebraska became the last state in the nation to pass a safe-haven law, and theirs is a bit different. Pirsch wrote an amendment to the bill that says children as old as 19 can be left at safe havens. Most states only allow parents to drop off their children if they're less than a year old.

State Senator PIRSCH: If they're on the point where they, out of frustration or anger, may actually injure the child, then this is a vastly superior system to set up because it will take the child from that position of danger and place him into a safe environment.

COHEN: The new law took effect last month. So far, Pirsch says there have been no problems, no instances of frustrated parents using the law as a heated response to deal with unruly teenagers. Even without the unusually high age limit, some find safe-haven laws problematic. Critics say these laws deter parents from going through more formal adoption processes and may encourage moms to avoid much-needed pre- and post-natal care.

State Senator PIRSCH: The whole over-riding idea behind the safe haven law is to make sure the babies are safe. And when the alternative could well be death, it certainly is the direction that we should be heading.

COHEN: Senator Pete Pirsch says Nebraska will continue to monitor the success of the law and if needs be, will revise it.

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