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MA - Baby Safe Haven - Taking it to the people

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  • MA - Baby Safe Haven - Taking it to the people


    Taking it to the people
    By Dinah Cardin
    Thursday, November 18, 2004
    Photo Gallery

    David Clark of the Amesbury Police Department demonstrates the station's
    preparedness - in the form of child safety seats - for the new law that allows
    a woman to drop her newborn at a police or fire station or a hospital without
    prosecution. (Staff Photo

    Anyone who saw what he saw on a cold day in Dorchester three years ago, almost
    to the day the new baby abandonment legislation was signed, would never doubt
    the need for a Baby Safe Haven Law, says Michael Morrisey, the region's lead
    advocate for safe havens.

    Morrisey and his wife Jean helped bury Baby Rebecca, a child found dead
    from exposure in Dorchester's St. Mary's Cemetery.

    This led the Lexington couple to embark on a crusade across the state,
    convincing nearly 20 communities to vote in favor of getting the law before the
    legislature. Among them, Saugus, where Town Meeting members voted unanimously
    to support the law. The advocates paid a visit to the Amesbury City Council.
    And then the state took up the issue.

    'We just basically said we'll work the citizens and towns and get home
    rule petitions done, like a smoking ban," Morrisey says. "Then the state put it
    on [the ballot] statewide."

    So it turned out to work exactly like the statewide smoking ban, stopping
    incremental changes with one big sweep of a state law.

    The couple now is petitioning Vermont communities and lawmakers to pass a
    baby safe haven law and educating Massachusetts residents about its version,
    says Morrissey, who is a board member of the National Safe Haven Alliance.

    "Our job is to keep following up on it and get the word out," says
    Morrisey. To that end, he has established a Web site at, and private groups have set up a hotline (877 796

    The word has been spread by Oprah Winfrey, the national news media and,
    Morrisey says, on TV shows popular with teens, like "Seventh Heaven" and "Joan
    of Arcadia." The shows have depicted the characters taking advantage of the

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