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106 Colum. L. Rev. 753 (2006)
Infant Safe Haven Laws: Legislating in the Culture of Life

handle is hein.journals/clr106 and id is 799 raw text is: COLUMBIA LAW REVIEW
VOL. 106                         MAY 2006                              NO. 4
Carol Sanger*
This Article analyzes the politics, implementation, and influence of In-
fant Safe Haven laws. These laws, enacted across the states in the early
2000s in response to much-publicized discoveries of dead and abandoned
infants, provide for the legal abandonment of newborns. They offer new
mothers immunity and anonymity in exchange for leaving their babies at
designated Safe Havens. Yet despite widespread enactment, the laws have
had relatively little impact on the phenomenon of infant abandonment. This
Article explains why this is so, focusing particularly on a disconnect between
the legislative scheme and the characteristics of neonaticidal mothers that
makes the use of Safe Havens less likely.
The heart of the argument, however, focuses not on what Safe Haven
laws fail to accomplish, but on what they achieve. This Article argues that
these laws are properly understood within a larger political culture, one in-
creasingly organized around the protection of unborn life, and that identifies
itself as the culture of life. By connecting infant life to unborn life and
infanticide to abortion, Safe Haven laws work subtly to promote the political
goal of the culture of life: the reversal of Roe v. Wade. The laws' primary
achievements may therefore be less criminological than cultural. Through an
investigation of state legislative histories, this Article suggests that the rheto-
ric and politics of abortion set the stage for the quick enactment of Safe Ha-
ven laws nationwide. It also examines the legislative and social mechanisms
by which unwed preguancy and abortion have been taken off the table, creat-
ing a psychological crisis that leads some young women to fatally abandon
their newborns.
* Barbara Aronstein Black Professor of Law, Columbia Law School. I have benefited
tremendously from the thoughtful comments of Susan Bandes, Richard Briffault, Erin
Dougherty, Ariela Dubler, Robert Ferguson, Katherine Franke, Jill Hasday, Joan Hollinger,
Mae Kuykendall, and Jeremy Waldron, and from friends and colleagues at faculty
workshops at Columbia Law School, University of Colorado School of Law, George
Washington University Law School, Vanderbilt University Law School, University of
Minnesota Law School, Michigan State University College of Law, and the 8th Annual Law,
Culture and Humanities Conference. I thank Samantha Harper, Vivian Lehrer, Margo
Blair, Shawn Campbell, and Kathy Applegate for excellent research assistance, and Kate
Kaufmann Shih for her fine editing.

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