Are you pregnant, about to give birth and not sure what to do? Did your partner suddenly change his mind and decide not to support you?
Maybe you’re just scared and you feel like you have no one to turn to. This situation is dangerous for mothers and babies. But there’s help for you – even in what feels like an emergency situation.
The Gloster-Washington Case
Sadly, Glencetta Gloster-Washington of Detroit either didn’t know about Michigan’s Safe Delivery law or something else went very wrong for her. The details of her case aren’t known, but she is being charged with the murder of her newborn baby on March 26th.
Gloster-Washington was found bleeding and unresponsive inside her home and was rushed to the hospital by relatives. When it was discovered she had recently given birth, police searched and found the body of her baby in the trash outside her house. No cause of death has been released and Gloster-Washington will return to court April 18th for a preliminary examination.
Before the year 2000, parents could be charged with child abandonment. This was a 10-year felony – even for trying to do the right thing in a desperate situation, like leaving their newborn baby on the steps of a church or at a fire station.
According to this Michigan government document, 57 babies were abandoned in the United States each day. This adds up to 20,000 babies per year. Some of them die of exposure before they can be found and taken to safety.
Safe Delivery of Newborns and Michigan Law
Michigan’s Safe Delivery of Newborns law came into effect on January 1, 2001. In the first ten years after that law, more than 100 babies were surrendered safely who might have been abandoned to die if their parents hadn’t known about the law.
However, babies are still abandoned all the time, due to lack of knowledge that the law exists or maybe a lack of trust that it is truly safe.
How the Law Works
If you give birth – even inside a hospital – and you realize or have decided that you can’t parent the child, you can surrender the child without any fear of penalty within the first 72 hours after the child’s birth. That means you have 3 days to decide what to do.
Then you can bring or leave the infant with someone safe, and walk away. You can leave the baby at a hospital, fire station or police station or simply call 911 and surrender your baby to EMS workers if you’ve given birth somewhere outside the hospital.
You can answer a few questions anonymously. You do not have to give your name. In addition, you may choose to walk away at any time without giving an interview. Either way, the information you give can’t ever be held against you.
From there, a doctor will examine the newborn. The Safe Delivery law only applies if:
- The baby is older than 72 hours (from the time of birth)
- There is evidence the baby has been abused
- There is evidence the baby has been neglected
Most parents don’t want to hurt their babies or give them up. However, we know sometimes people do desperate things when they feel desperate.
Unfortunately for Glencetta Gloster-Washington, March 26th was one of those terrible days. Maybe if she had known she had an alternative, her baby’s life would have been saved and she wouldn’t be facing a murder charge.
If you are in Gencetta’s shoes, for whatever reason, seek help. Maybe you thought a baby would help your partner stay with you and it didn’t. Or maybe you’ve just changed your mind about parenting now that the baby is here.
Whatever the reason, the best thing you can do for yourself is to get the baby to a safe place where he or she can be warm and fed and not be at risk of any desperate acts of violence.
If your baby is safe and healthy when you surrender him or her, and is under 72 hours old, there is a chance you can even be reunited with your baby once you’ve had a chance to get control of your circumstances. Sometimes, surrendered babies are reunited with their own families. There is hope for you, and hope for your baby.
All 50 states now have some version of the Safe Delivery/Safe Haven law. For more information, call 888-510-BABY (2229).
If you are facing charges and need help, having an experienced defense attorney by your side is critical. Please call my office today.