Baby Mary’s Legacy: July 11 Declared Safe Haven Day In Pennsylvania

(HARRISBURG) – The Senate today unanimously passed a Resolution by Senator John R. Gordner (R-27) declaring July 11 as “Safe Haven Day” in Pennsylvania.  July 11 was the day newborn “Baby Mary” was discovered in a trash compactor at the Sunbury Municipal Transfer Station in 2001.  Baby Mary’s death was the event that led to the enactment of Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven Law by former 27th District Senator Edward Helfrick in 2002.

Safe Haven allows parents of newborns to safely abandon them at medical facilities without fear of prosecution.

“While abandonment should never be encouraged, Safe Haven provides an alternative in these cases that almost always involve young, immature mothers who are hiding their pregnancies and are very scared and unprepared for child rearing,” said Senator Gordner.

Since a rash of national infant abandonments in the late 1990’s, all fifty states have enacted Safe Haven statutes, and the National Safe Haven Alliance estimates over 1,000 babies have been saved in the last ten years, including several in Pennsylvania.

In additional to the provisions allowing the safe abandonment of infants, Pennsylvania’s law contains an important educational and informational component to alert young mothers to their options and to discourage abandonment.  Information on Pennsylvania’s Safe Haven program operated by the Department of Public Welfare may be found at www.secretsafe.org

Senator Gordner commended Northumberland County Coroner James F. Kelley, who still regularly visits Baby Mary’s gravesite, with being a staunch local advocate for the passage of the Safe Haven Law, as well as for Kelley’s continued public advocacy for the program.

“Baby Mary’s legacy is our law that has saved the lives of many other infants,” said Senator Gordner.  “It is fitting that we remember the day of her unfortunate death in this way.”

The Senate Resolution is identical to a Resolution passed last week in the House of Representatives that was sponsored by Reps. Kurt Masser (R-107) and Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108).

Safe Haven Website