Who are the Mothers who kill their infants at birth? Why do they kill? How do they kill? Once the infant is disposed of, what becomes of the Mother? Neonaticide is the killing of a newborn within the first twenty-four hours of birth. In response to the discovery of thirteen abandoned newborns, Texas passed the first Safe Haven law in 1999. Within nine years, all states enacted similar laws. The purpose of Safe Haven Laws is to deter neonaticidal behaviors by allowing Mothers who are bearing unwanted pregnancies to legally surrender their newborns with anonymity and immunity from prosecution. The laws are based on the assumption that if these women have the choice between killing their newborns or legally surrendering them, they will choose the latter.
This article presents an empirical study of 559 cases of women who killed, abandoned, or legally surrendered their newborns at Safe Haven sites. Although the data were subject to statistical analysis, the study's value lies not in its mathematical precision, but rather, in the portal of observation it provides into a phenomenon that is largely invisible to the public eye.
Diane S. Kaplan, Who Are the Mothers Who Need Safe Haven Laws? An Empirical Investigation of Mothers Who Kill, Abandon, or Safely Surrender Their Newborns, 29 Wis. J.L. Gender & Soc'y 213 (2014)