Safe haven boxes were recently installed at two fire stations in Indiana, the first of a statewide effort to help save the lives of abandoned newborn babies.
“I was abandoned as an infant back in 1973, so I’ve always been very close to the safe haven law,” Monica Kelsey, who founded Safe Haven Baby Boxes and works as a firefighter, told NBC News on Thursday.
Kelsey was abandoned by her 17-year-old birth mother at the hospital just two hours after being born. Her mother had been raped and was urged to have an abortion, but did not go through with the procedure.
“I just praise God that my birth mother was strong enough to walk out of the abortion clinic,” she told reporters in 2013.
Kelsey, who was soon adopted after being left at the hospital, is now a pro-life advocate and works to save others like herself. Her biological mother, whom she learned of as a child, has since passed.
The safe haven boxes are an extension of the state’s existing safe haven law, which allows mothers to anonymously leave their babies at hospitals, police stations and firehouses within the first 30 days after birth without punishment.
“What we are finding is some women want complete anonymity and are dropping off their newborns at the doors of fire stations and hospitals without doing the face to face interaction,” Kelsey outlines on the Safe Haven Baby Boxes website. “These women love their children and they want to do what’s best for the child, but they don’t want to have their faces seen.”
The first box was installed in Woodburn, Indiana last month and the second in Michigan City this month.
The boxes are similar to incubators in that they are padded, heated boxes, but also feature a device that notifies workers whenever a baby is placed inside. Emergency personnel are to remove the baby from the box within five minutes of the notification, and the child is then cared for and placed into the hands of Child Protective Services.
Kelsey has found support to help pay for the installation of other boxes, as one organization has stated that it will fund the first 100 safe haven boxes in Indiana. The fire departments at which the boxes have been installed thus far are also on board.
“Anything we can do to make that specific situation better,” Wes Rogers, captain at the Cool Spring Fire Department, told the Indianapolis Star. “We try to do it every day with running our calls, fighting fires and helping sick people. This is just another way to help.”
While the State Department of Health has previously opined that there are “no standards or protocols that can ensure the safety of children placed in these devices,” Kelsey states that the boxes have been tested and improved to alleviate any concerns.
“We have listened to all the concerns and listened to all the criticisms, and it’s helped us improve the box,” she said. “We’ve never lost focus on our goal. It’s to save these babies that are abandoned.”
As previously reported, a similar effort has been launched in Kennesaw, Georgia by two women who lead “The Hope Box.” The women were inspired by the documentary “The Drop Box,” which tells the true story of South Korean pastor Lee Jong-rak, who is credited with saving countless abandoned babies who might have otherwise have died after being left on the streets by their mothers.
“Being that we are the number one state in America for sex-trafficking, there’s a rise in women becoming pregnant through this and not knowing what to do with their babies,” co-founder Tiffany Turolla told WXIA-TV in November.
The women have partnered with Embracing Life Adoption Agency, which will help to find adoptive parents for the children.
“The goal is to, even if we just saved one. One child, then that’s one child that had a chance,” co-founder Sarah Koeppen said.
Kelsey says that she is thankful that her mother gave her life despite being pressured to abort, and wears a diamond around her neck to remember her daily.
“She is my hero. She truly is,” she said. “Life is sacred. Life is precious. Life is a gift. Thank you, Lord, for my birth mother.”