(LAS VEGAS CBS KXNT) A state law permitting a woman to relinquish an unwanted infant to a hospital or fire station within 30 days of its birth has been used rarely in the ten years it’s been on the books, KXNT learned this week. The so-called safe-haven law was intended to prevent precisely the kind of tragedy discovered this week in central Las Vegas – a dead infant abandoned to a trash dumpster.
The identity of the teen mother who dumped the baby’s body is not public, but the scenario is uncomfortably familiar to professional counselors and psychologists.
“Hiding, disposing of a fetus or a child that’s been born, that has actually happened quite frequently,” said Ronald Lawrence, Executive Director of the Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada.
“One of the psychological responses to a situation like this… can be denial, Lawrence told KXNT. That “protective denial” could be the reason it doesn’t occur to a frightened teen to turn her baby over to authorities, he said.
As for nine months of keeping the condition secret, the teen mother may panic at the thought that her parents will realize she’s been sexually active when she reveals that she’s pregnant.
“A lot of kids live in absolute fear of making that disclosure,” Lawrence said. “And basically what the kid is saying to herself is, ‘this isn’t really happening’.”
The sense of denial extends beyond the event, and the teen may expect that life will go back to normal after the disposal of the baby’s body. But denial doesn’t stay permanently intact. Reality may break through months, even years later.
“There’s definitely a post-traumatic stress that occurs,” Lawrence said. “Oh my God, what happened to me, and I did what?”
Law enforcement and the courts have begun to realize there are psychiatric problems involved, and are willing to place the child into treatment, also imposing legal consequences for the crime.