Utah’s Safe Haven law offers help to frightened pregnant women

Sep 26, 2023, 8:09 PM | Updated: Oct 1, 2023, 9:58 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Department of Health and Human Services wants frightened pregnant young women to know that they have a place to turn for help and encouragement. The reminder follows the arrest of an 18-year-old Wasatch County woman accused of killing her infant son and disposing of his body in Parley’s Canyon.

18-year-old Estrella Meza Ojeda was charged Tuesday in 4th district court with aggravated murder, obstruction of justice, and abuse or desecration of a dead body in the death of her 1-month-old son.

Ojeda will make her first appearance in court on Wednesday, in the meantime, Utah leaders are reminding Utahns of the state’s newborn Safe Haven Law.

“Utah’s newborn Safe Haven Law allows the relinquishment of any newborn up to 30 days or younger at any hospital that operates 24/7 no questions asked,” said Miranda Fisher, spokesperson for Utah’s Department of Health and Human Services. “And they can legally relinquish their child to a hospital, so they are relieved of the duties of parenting for that baby and there are no legal ramifications behind it.”

When a child is surrendered to medical staff at the hospital the parent or the person designated by the parent to surrender the child won’t be asked any questions unless they want to leave a medical history on the child, or there are obvious signs of abuse or neglect.

“I think that Utah recognizes that parenting is hard and sometimes it’s overwhelming and it’s better to offer resources that protect children and families,” said Fisher. “We don’t want to vilify people for struggling, we want to offer help, and this is one of the best ways to do that, to where parents can receive help if they request it and babies are also protected and loved and taken care of.”

As soon as the infant is medically cleared at the hospital Fisher says it will then enter state guardianship.

“We take care of the children, whether that be foster care or some kind of temporary placement while we work on finding a safe and loving permanent home for these babies,” Fisher said.

If you have a baby over 30 days and are needing help, Fisher said there are nurseries all over the state that can provide emergency help.

“We offer crisis nurseries around the state, there are resources that can be found by contacting United Ways of Utah or by calling 211,” Fisher said. “They can help get you in contact with financial resources, mental health resources, or family crisis nurseries where you can go drop of your child for a little bit of time and they can help you work through some of those situations and anxieties and the overwhelming feelings you have as a new parent.”

Utah has 1-2 infants surrendered under Utah’s newborn Safe Haven Law each year, according to Fisher.

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Utah’s Safe Haven law offers help to frightened pregnant women