MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As many women consider their options following the overturn of Roe v Wade, some may not be aware of Tennessee’s Safe Haven Law, which allows women to safely abandon their babies.

The law has been around since 2001. It was created after a 14-year-old Townsend girl secretly delivered her baby and then abandoned it in a neighbor’s shed. By the time it was discovered, the baby had died due to severe dehydration.

Thanks to the law’s creation, 115 newborns have been saved to date. Today, the law and A Secret Safe Place for Newborns of Tennessee continue serving mothers who decide to safely surrender their babies.

The Tennessee Safe Haven Law allows mothers of newborns to surrender unharmed babies to designated facilities within two weeks of birth without fear of being prosecuted. As long as the baby is unharmed and the child is surrendered within two weeks of birth, the mother — or parents — will not be prosecuted and is assured of complete confidentiality.

Tennessee Department of Children’s Services

Over 1,000 Safe Havens across Tennessee are prepared to accept babies in order to prevent them from being deserted or placed in danger. Those havens include hospitals, police stations, fire departments, and medical facilities.

“She can take her baby to a Safe Haven facility within those 14 days as long as the newborn is completely unharmed,” said Sarah Turner, social media manager for A Secret Safe Place for Newborns of Tennessee. “All of these safe haven facilities are there to protect the mom and the baby and they’re properly trained on how to do so, so they’re ready.”

The secret part of the process stems from the organization’s top priority: 100% confidentiality.

“The process is completely confidential,” Turner explained. “They protect the mom and the baby. There’s no judgement at all.”

How the surrender works:

  1. The mother arrives at the Safe Haven location and notifies the staff that she wishes to surrender her baby
  2. The baby is thoroughly examined at the haven and is then transported to a hospital where it is further examined
  3. The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) is called
  4. The baby is placed in a foster to adopt home
  5. The mother is given a “mother’s packet” that includes her rights, an identification wristband (to prove she is the mother) and notification that after 30 days from the surrender, she will relinquish all her rights to her child

When it comes to how long the newborn remains in a foster home, Turner said it is not a long wait.

“They’re adopted very quickly,” Turner said. “All the newborns that have been surrendered in Tennessee have been adopted into permanent families.”

The overall goal of both the law and A Safe Secret Place for Newborns of Tennessee is to ensure a safe home for baby and complete privacy for mom.

“It’s completely confidential,” Turner told WATE. “Nobody would know that she surrendered her baby. She’s protected by this law. She is just free to go if that is how she wishes.”

For more information about the Safe Haven Law as well as A Secret Safe Place for Newborns of Tennessee, view the links below.