LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Right to Life has undertaken a statewide billboard campaign to promote the Safe Haven law and Safe Haven baby boxes in all 75 counties in Arkansas, Rose Mimms, executive director of the Arkansas Right to Life, announced June 26 in a news release.
The first billboard went live June 14 in Harrison, at 801 Highway 62-65 North, according to Mimms.
The Safe Haven law, enacted in Arkansas in 2001, is designed to protect babies from being hurt, or killed from abandonment by parents who are unwilling or unable to parent. Under this law a parent may give up an infant anonymously at a hospital emergency room or law enforcement agency, but in 2019 the law was amended to include manned fire stations as a surrender location. The amended law, Act 185, sponsored by Arkansas Sen. Cecile Bledsoe and Rep. Rebecca Petty also approved the installation of Safe Haven Baby Boxes at surrender locations.
With the law is set to take effect on July 24, the billboard campaign’s purpose is threefold, said Mimms: 1) to educate the general public and parents about the Safe Haven law, 2) to advise manned fire departments that they are now an official surrender location and 3) to promote the option of Safe Haven baby boxes for those parents who want or need total anonymity in the safe surrender of their baby.
The first Safe Haven box in Arkansas is set to be dedicated in September, said Mimms.
Monica Kelsey, founder of Safe Haven baby boxes, testified before the Arkansas Senate Public Health Committee and brought a Safe Haven baby box with her to the Arkansas State Capitol for inspection as to the safety and need of total anonymity for these parents.
Kelsey, who was abandoned as an infant and adopted, has made it her life mission to protect mothers and babies.
Mimms said every state has a Safe Haven law, but the provisions vary from state to state. The Arkansas Safe Haven Law allows a parent to bring a child 30 days old or younger to an official surrender location without facing prosecution of endangerment and abandonment of a child. The law does not prohibit prosecution for abuse or neglect of the child that occurred before the child was given up to a medical provider or law enforcement agency.
Once a baby is surrendered, the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) will be contacted immediately and the child treated medically. DCFS will assume responsibility for the child and place the child with a
The DCFS maintains a website, PSA and materials in both English and Spanish to help educate the public about the Arkansas Safe Haven Law.
"Arkansas Right to Life joins the effort with our support of the law to add manned fire departments and the installation of Safe Haven Baby Boxes in Arkansas through our educational billboard campaign," said Mimms.
Arkansas Right to Life is the state’s oldest and largest pro-life organization in Arkansas and the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee.