Suzanne Hobbs, a journalist in Idaho Falls, Idaho, was on the scene in 2000 when police discovered a discarded body of a newborn baby. Police later questioned a teenager who confessed to the crime. The 18-year-old mother, who claimed the baby was stillborn, was convicted of unlawful disposal of a body.
After speaking with the teen's father, Suzanne learned that Idaho did not have a safe haven law, though many other states did. Safe haven laws enable mothers to bring babies to certain places—like hospitals, fire stations and police stations—and leave them in the care of the state, with no questions asked. The teenager's father told Suzanne he believed that if Idaho had a law like this, his grandchild may have lived.
Since 1999, 47 states have adopted their own individual safe haven laws. Only three states—Nebraska, Hawaii and Alaska—do not yet have safe haven laws.
Suzanne proceeded to call her state senator, pressing him to take on the issue. "For six months, I bothered the state senator," she says. "He finally got it through, it passed with flying colors through the the Idaho Senate and the House." When the governor signed the law, Suzanne says, "he said, 'Thank you for your help on this law. Your fingerprints are all over this law.'"
Since the safe haven law was passed in Idaho, 13 newborns have been surrendered...including the baby girl who is now Suzanne's adopted daughter.
Jessica says she had never heard of safe haven laws when she was pregnant. "When I look back, more than anything I wish I would have just turned to somebody as soon as I found out. If I would have known of things like [safe haven laws], I could have had a plan," she says. "I could have figured out something and possibly taken him somewhere where he could have been safe. I feel that if I would have been more knowledgeable of options, the outcome never would have been what it is today."
Jessica says she is determined to educate children to prevent something like what she did from happening again. "When I am released I would love to get involved in programs and any type of opportunity to talk to people and let them know it's so important to have communication with your children. And for the parents to really be involved and to actually pay attention to what's going on."
"Did you know that at the age of 14, I hid a pregnancy? I was raped at 9 and sexually abused from the time I was 10 to 14. At 14 years old, I became pregnant," Oprah tells Jessica. "I hid that pregnancy from everybody. One day my ankles started to swell. I was taken to the hospital and the doctors said, 'Are you pregnant?' I didn't even know what pregnancy was. I'd been abused all this time, but I really wasn't even sure that the outcome was you have a baby. So I confessed that I had been having sex with people who had been abusing me for years. The stress of that confession caused me to go into labor, and the baby died.
"And my father said to me at that time what I'm going to say to you," Oprah continues. "What you have done is the past, and you alone get to determine what your future will be.
"You have five more years to serve in prison. There are a lot of teenagers out there right now who are hiding their secret, just as I had mine, because I didn't think there was anybody I could tell about the abuse. I didn't think there was anybody I could share it with, just like you didn't feel that there was anybody you could tell. Your speaking out today is going to give a lot of girls the courage to do that. You are not your past. You are what is possible for you. Own this truth and move forward in your life. Forgive yourself, and others will be able to forgive you."
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