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Oklahoma's safe haven law aims to protect babies

by Bryan Painter Published: October 2, 2008
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Rep. Susan Winchester, R-Chickasha, knew exactly what I was calling about when I mentioned Nebraska’s new safe haven law.

Oklahoma’s safe haven law, which she co-authored with then Sen. Bernest Cain, D-Oklahoma City, took effect in 2001. It allows a parent to leave a child up to 7 days old with a medical services provider or child rescuer without fear of prosecution.


Nebraska’s law, however, is for "any child.” The law took effect in July, and at least 16 children were abandoned by late September. One father left nine children at a medical center.

Was there any discussion about including older children in the Oklahoma law?

"The idea of extending it beyond a year was tossed around, but never seriously discussed,” Winchester said. "I think what has happened is what you would anticipate by making it broad.”

The focus of the Oklahoma law was to provide parents with alternatives that would protect a baby, Winchester said.

Tragically, in 2001 a newborn was found zipped in a book bag and abandoned in an Oklahoma City garbage bin. Winchester said a mother delivered a baby in a public rest room in Tulsa about that same time, and the baby died.

The safe haven legislation was passed into law that year.

A 2006 story in The Oklahoman told of a baby boy, about an hour old, left in a waiting room chair at an Oklahoma City medical center.

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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