The Safe Haven Law Essay
The Safe Haven Law
Joshua Miller (2009), in his article “Father Who Ditched Nine Kids via Safe Haven Law Has Twins on the Way,” discusses the conditions that brought about the review and revision of the Safe Haven Law. Within the text, Miller implicitly argues that despite the amendment of the Safe Haven Law, the revision of the law fails to provide long-lasting solutions to the root of the problem that leads parents to commit infanticide or abandonment of their children.
He does by pointing out the case of Gary Staton who relinquished his parental rights over his nine children, ranging from ages one to seventeen, after the death of his wife, through the use of the Safe Haven Law (2009, p. 1).
The relevance of Staton’s case to Miller’s argument is based on the following implicit assumptions of the text: (1) Staton’s reason as to why he relinquished his parental rights over his children is based on his claim that he is unable to take care of all his children and (2) Staton’s reason as to why he is willing and able to take care of his upcoming twins with his new wife is based on his claim that he will have help (the help of his new wife) in taking care of his new children.
From these assumption, one may derive Miller’s main argument, that being, ‘Instead of implementing the Safe Haven Law, legislators should implement laws that will provide parents and upcoming parents with the help necessary in order for them to raise their children within a nourishing and safe environment (2009, p. 1). This is evident as Miller quotes Melyssa Cowburn, who states, “The law helped, but honestly, they need to address a lot of child service issues…A lot of the Safe Haven kids were parents just trying to get help” (Miller, 2009, p.
1). Within this context, it is important to note the mechanics that enables the creation of such laws as the Safe Haven Law as opposed to laws that will cater to the needs of parents and future parents that will aid them in keeping their children. I will argue that the creation of the Safe Haven Law is based on a culture whose moral beliefs are threatened by the possible occurrence of abortion and infanticide.
This is in accordance to Carol Sanger’s claim that “the speedy enactment of the Safe Haven legislation can be explained within the sociological framework of a ‘moral panic,’ as sparked by cultural resonances linking newborn death with moral concerns about abortion” (2006, p. 760). Culture and Sub-cultures: The Culture of Life and the Safe Haven Law Culture refers to ‘the attributes internal to a group’ (Alvenson, 2002, p. 1). Given that a group may be composed of varying subgroups, the ‘attributes internal to these subgroups’ refer to a subculture (Alvenson, 2002, p.
156). The creation and implementation of the Safe Haven legislations is based on the necessity to uphold a ‘culture of life’ (Sanger, 2006, p. 760). This ‘culture of life’ was upheld on the insistence the members of the conservative and right-wing Christian subgroups in the American culture. It aims “to operationalize the ideology (of life) by producing a set of practices and laws that protect unborn life” (Sanger, 2006, p. 760). The Safe Haven Law serves as one of the subcultures through which this culture of life is implemented in the United States.
According to Dayna Cooper (2002), “Safe haven legislation is a national movement aimed at responding to baby abandonment to safely leave their babies in someone else’s care without the fear of being criminally prosecuted for abandonment” (p. 879). Cooper further states that the law aims to “prevent infanticide by allowing parents to leave their children at designated ‘safe havens’” (2002, p. 877). These ‘safe havens’ refer to legally designated locations where the parents may abandon their children while at the same time ensuring their “anonymity and immunity from prosecution” (Sanger, 2006, p.
755). The Safe Haven law thereby provides protection for both the child and its parents as it ensures a ‘safe haven’ for the child while at the same time ensuring the parents’ freedom from charges of criminal abandonment. Groupness: The Redefinition of the Group of Responsible Parents The creation of the subculture enabled by the culture of life manifested in the Safe Haven law led to the redefinition of two groups of individuals: (1) the group of responsible parents and (2) the group of irresponsible parents. The group of the later became the focus of the Safe Haven law.
The focus exemplifies an example through which other individual’s perception of the characteristics of a group of individuals (their coherence, structure, and unity), groupness, leads these individuals to act in order to change or remedy the factors that enable the creation of a particular group (Hamilton, Sherman, & Lickel, 2005, p. 405). In the case of the Safe Haven law, this led to the redefinition of the responsible parent as a parent who chooses to relinquish his parental rights in order to ensure the safety and well-being of his child.
The redefinition of the perception of the responsible parent is evident if one considers that a responsible parent is no longer equated with an individual who chooses to be accountable for his child. The Safe Haven law, along with the ‘culture of life’ enabled parents not to be accountable for their children. In Staton’s case, this is evident in his chose to relinquish his accountability for his children with his first wife and as his choice to embrace his accountability for his children with his second wife. Groupthink: Groupthinking and its Effects in the Implementation of the Safe Haven Law
Groupthink refers to “a tendency for premature and extreme concurrence seeking with a decision group” (Hart & Kroon, 1997, p. 102). The initial implementation of the Safe Haven Law may be seen as an example of groupthink. The reason for this lies in the legislators’ inability to account for the consequences of the initial implementation of the law. As a result of their desire to provide a solution to the initial problems brought about by infanticide and infant abandonment, the legislators implemented the law without considering its initial results.
Cooper states, “Pro-life politicians have promoted either the Safe Haven laws or the background phenomenon of abandonment in order to ensure the implementation of a religious morality” within the United States (2002, p. 761). The premature and extreme characteristic of the Safe Haven Law is evident as it chooses to focus on the necessity to implement religious morality instead of implementing legislation that will prevent the occurrence of infanticide and infant abandonment. Organizational culture: The Role of Sexual Abstinence and the Fetus in the ‘Culture of Life’ Campaign
Organizational culture refers to the ‘collection of values and norms that control the manner through which the members of a group interact with those who belong outside their culture’ (Alvarez, 2002, p. 32). The norms and values that define the culture of life are exemplified by its campaign for sexual abstinence as well as its campaign for the treatment of the fetus as a human being. These campaigns have affected the creation of the Safe Haven Law as it ensures that parents or expecting parents will choose to continue the life of their child.
It is in accordance to the norms and values exemplified by the culture of life, that being the culture that places an “unconditional respect for the right to life of every innocent person-from conception to natural death” (Sanger, 2006, p. 801). Conclusion In line with this, the Safe Haven Law may be seen to be an example of a law created in order to ensure the continuation or implementation of the values and norms of a group of a particular subculture in society. It was able to do this by appealing to the importance of life which is exemplified by its emphasis on the ‘culture of life.
’ By doing so, it allowed the legislation of a cultural norm and hence the implementation of a cultural sub-group’s norm to the rest of society. The law however manifests an example of groupthinking as it was not able to solve the root of the problem that leads parents to commit infanticide or abandon their children. References Alvarez, M. (2002). Understanding Organizational Culture. London: SAGE. Cooper, D. (2002). Note: Fathers are Parents Too: Challenging Safe Haven Laws with Procedural Due Process. Hofstra Law Review, 31, 877-902. Hamilton, D. , Sherman, S. & Lickel, B. (2005).
Perceiving Social Groups: The Importance of the Entitativity Continuum. In D. Hamilton (Ed. ), Social Cognition: Key Readings (pp. 405-420). Np: Psychology P. Hart, P. & Kroon, M. (1997). Groupthink in Government: Pathologies of Small-Group Decision Making. In J. Garnett & A. Kouzmin (Eds. ), Handbook of Administrative Communication (pp. 101-140). Np: CRC P. Miller, J. (2009). Father Who Ditched Nine Kids Via Safe Haven Law Has Twins on the Way. Retrieved July 1, 2009, from http://www. foxnews. com/story/0,2933,529597,00. html Sanger, C. (2006). Infant Safe Haven Laws: Legislating in the Culture of Life. Columbia Law Review, 106. 4, 753-829.