In mid-September, the Nebraska state legislature passed a “safe haven” law. The law allows one to leave a child “in the custody of an employee on duty at a hospital licensed by the State of Nebraska”. To date, twenty-three children have been abandoned under the auspices of this law.
Apparently, the intention of the law was to provide protection for children who were either in danger of being harmed or otherwise threatened by their family environments; and was targeted more specifically to protect infants. Yet, of the twenty-three cases (including two today), eight of them have been teenagers fifteen or older (seventeen have been twelve or older). State legislatures are now rushing to amend the law to specify that it applies only to infants (the youngest child abandoned to date has been one year old; all the others were at least six).
It is astonishing that no one is talking about the absurdity of this situation. Purely aside from the ethical contradictions involved in a parent abandoning a teenager to the custody of the state, how is it the case that in the heart of one of the most conservative regions of the country people believe either that it is the province of the state to accommodate the abysmal failure of their attempts at “individual self-actualization” on the one hand or that the state is substitutable for the family? Or: keep the government out of the economy, education, and health care, but bring it into the family. (Perhaps, however, we should not be surprised, since it is also these very people who invite the government into their bodies and their marriages.)